A A RO N M AT T H E W WA L LSearch Engine Optimization Book! Aaron Matthew Wall144 Dahlia Drive • State College • PA 16803(401) 207-1945 • email@example.comLast Updated: Friday, January 12, 2007
3Table of ContentsQuick Summary of Do-It-Yourself ..........................7SEO Tips ....................................... 7SEO Tools .................................................................7Picking a Product.....................................................7Picking a Domain Name...........................................8Domain Registration & Hosting...............................8Keyword Selection....................................................9Page Optimization....................................................9Home Page Optimization...................................... 10Site Optimization................................................... 10Registering With Directories ................................ 11Link Building...................................................12When Algorithm Changes Occur.....................13Common SEO Abuse Techniques .................... 13Appearing Natural .......................................... 14Social Considerations ..................................... 15Closing Tips..................................................... 15SEO Quick-Start Checklist ....................................17How to Read this e-book .......................................19SEO as a Standalone Product .........................19The Social Elements of Relevancy ..................21Starting from Broke........................................ 22Questions, Comments & Concerns ................. 23Interactive Elements ...................................... 24Why Search? ..........................................................25Finding Prospects ..........................................25Interactive Elements ...................................... 26Some Notes..................................................... 27Brief History of the Web ........................................28The Goal of Search Engines &How They Work .............................................. 28Origins of the Web ......................................... 36Commercialized Cat & Mouse ........................ 37Choosing a Domain Name .............................. 42Hosting .......................................................... 51Interactive Elements ...................................... 53Some Notes..................................................... 54General Internet Topics .........................................56Learning Your Subject ................................... 56Changing Your Site ........................................ 61Copywriting ....................................................66Usability .........................................................70Generating Revenue ......................................76Interactive Elements ......................................86
4Some Notes.....................................................90Writing for Search Engines ...................................91Keywords .......................................................92Meta Tags ....................................................111Page Title Tag Done Wrong .........................115Page Title Tag Done Right ...........................116Internal Linking............................................119Navigation ....................................................125Optimizing Your Page Copy ..........................127Building Content...........................................132Unexplored Waters.......................................137Interactive Elements ....................................137Some Notes...................................................141Directories and Communities .............................142Search Engines versus Directories ...............142Submitting Your Site ...................................143Social Interaction and Links ........................143General Directories.......................................146Niche Directories .........................................151The Active Web.............................................157Interactive Elements ....................................157Some Notes...................................................159Search Engines ....................................................160The Major Search Engines ............................160Google...........................................................160Yahoo! Search ..............................................181Microsoft.......................................................186Ask ...............................................................188Comparing Search Results ...........................192Interactive Elements ....................................193Some Notes...................................................195Link Building ........................................................197Text in Incoming Links ................................197Exchanging Links .........................................206Requesting Links ..........................................207Evaluating the Quality of a Link ..................216Free Links & Buying Links ............................218Waiting for Results.......................................232Customizing Your Browser for SEO ..............233Interactive Elements ....................................234Some Notes...................................................237Viral Marketing & the Social Web .......................238Problems with Manufacturing Relevancy.....238Real versus Artificial ....................................239Things Google Can Track .............................241My Tinfoil Hat Theories…..............................244Is Your Site Future Ready?...........................245Don’t Discount the Present Opportunity ......245Blurring Editorial vs Ads & Editors vs Users .250Market Edges ................................................253Resources .....................................................253Some Notes...................................................255Monitoring Results ..............................................257
5When Results Don’t Show ...........................257SEO Worst Practice Manual .........................258Other Problems ............................................263Speeding Things Up: Paid Inclusion ...........267Other Search Engines .................................. 269Interactive Elements ....................................271Pay-Per-Click .......................................................274Before You Start ..........................................274What is Pay-Per-Click? ................................276Yahoo! Search Marketing .............................278Ad Writing Tips ............................................284Customer Tracking and Bid Management……..288Earning (and Buying) Trust ..........................290Google AdWords ...........................................292Bonus Info: How to Improve CTR and Slash Google AdWords Costs to Maximize Profits…………..296Microsoft adCenter .......................................309Resources Cited ............................................310Some Notes...................................................314Hiring a Search Engine Optimizer .....................315The Goal of this e-book.................................315What are My Goals?...................................... 315SEO Business Models ....................................316More Information on Buying SEO Services...320Resources .....................................................321Selling SEO Services...........................................322Online Auctions.............................................322Forums..........................................................323Writing Articles.............................................323Ideal Clients..................................................324Where to find Clients.................................... 324Questions to Ask Clients...............................325Being Your Size.............................................326Contracting & Outsourcing...........................327Cold Calling...................................................327Niche: SEO Guy – Real Estate.......................327Sales Cycle....................................................328Contracts ......................................................328Reports .........................................................329Dependency on Free Traffic..........................329Affiliate Sites & Passive Income Streams.....330Resources ....................................................330
6Author’s NoteChapter 3, General Internet Topics,covers many non-search relatedInternet topics. I include this becauseif you do well with many of the “non-search” related topics it becomes fareasier to build a linking campaign andachieve top search engine placement.For competitive phrases, linkpopularity and the words in thoselinks are the single most importantpart of Search EngineOptimization (SEO). But to get theright types of people to want to votefor you your site needs to do manythings well.With most websites, conversion andprofit are more important than thesheer amount of traffic you get.Making small changes within your sitecan double or triple your conversionrate. If you do everything elsecorrectly, you do not need to put asmuch effort into SEO.If you already know the topics coveredin Chapter 3, feel free to skip overthem. More than trying to answer allquestions about the web, Chapter 3 isthere to help point you towardanswers to other Internet business-related questions you may have.Before getting too far into SEO, thinkabout whether the idea you have isone that will be easy to spread. If it isnot, think of how you can transformyour concept into something that iseasier to disseminate throughout theInternet.It is usually far easier and far moreprofitable to create an idea worthspreading than it is to spread an ideanot worth spreading.Disclaimer: Since search engines areconstantly changing while still keepingsecret their algorithms, there is no wayto know the exact algorithms at anygiven time. However, due to datacollected through observations ofsearch engines over the past severalyears, it is my hope that this book willteach you how to make informedobservations and decisions as searchengines continue to change. Withenough experience, one can discernpatterns in the search engine puzzle,and as a result, figure out how theprocess works. This guide was createdto help you learn to identify thosepatterns and solve the puzzle.While following this guide should helpimprove your rankings, I, the authorof this book, shall not be heldresponsible for damages because ofthe use (or misuse) of this information.
7Quick Summary of Do-It-Yourself SEO TipsMany people who buy this book will never read it in its entirety. To help whet yourpalate and ensure you get some value out of this text (and, therefore, read thewhole thing), here is a quick-start checklist highlighting the most important aspectsof search engine optimization and Internet marketing. When looking to start withsearch engine optimization, consider the following issues:SEO ToolsOftentimes using the right tools can save you both time and money. I have createda free PDF checklist of all the SEO tools I use. You may download it here:http://www.seobook.com/seo-tools.pdfPicking a ProductYou may read this title and think that you have already accomplished this step,and that your product (or your vision for your product) is already refined,wrapped, and ready for purchase. However, there are many key questions thatshould be considered before bringing your wares or service to customers:" Are you interested in the product you are trying to sell? If not, why not choosea different product?The Internet makes marketing anything a possibility. You are far morelikely to succeed if you are interested in what you are trying to sell. Also, it isfar easier to sell people what they want than to get them to want your product.Create something the market wants." Is the marketplace for your product oversaturated?Examples: Posters, credit cards, prescription drugs, hosting, generic sitedesign, and ink refills are all oversaturated markets. Breaking into thesemarkets can be exceptionally difficult, so think carefully about what wouldmake your product different and needed." Is the product something people would want to order over the web?" Is there something you can do to make yourself different than everyone elseon the market? (Please note: “cheaper” usually is not a legitimatebranding/business model for most websites in a hyper-competitive market.)Example: No other e-book covering SEO was supported by a blog thatkeeps up with the SEO industry every day (at least, not when I first wrote thisone).Another example: In 2002, I created a SEO “worst practices” directory.To this day, nobody else has made a site like it. It earned me thousands in thefirst year with a marketing budget well under $100.
8In the end, ask yourself -- Would people want to link to your site without youasking them to? If not, what creative or original ideas can you add to your siteto make people want to link to it?Picking a Domain NameFinding the right domain name can be a tricky business, and indeed, can meanthe difference between success and failure in the online marketplace. As such,it is important to consider the following before choosing a domain name:" FOR NEW SITES: Depending on your branding angle, pick a domain namethat is either highly brandable (meaning that it can be easily and positivelyassociated with your product or service) or has your primary keywords in it.Use a short and memorable domain name. It is fine if it does not have yourkeywords in it if it is memorable. For serious, long-term websites, a memorabledomain name will be one of the key ingredients to success." If you are going to be working in competitive fields, or if you will have largesites, you may want to use a different domain for each different language youare targeting.Examples of domain names I own: BlackHatSEO.com,SEOBook.com, FattyWeightLoss.com, and Threadwatch.orgDomain Registration & HostingOnce you have selected a domain name, you must make sure that it isavailable, and then register it. After your domain name has been registered,you must find a reliable host for your website." Register your domain with an ICANN (Internet Corporation for AssignedNames and Numbers) accredited registrar. I use GoDaddy." Register as a .com if possible, if you have a global market. If you cannot get a.com, but a great .net or .org is still available, it might be worth it to registerone of those instead of registering a longer (and less memorable) .com domain." If you are targeting a specific country or language, register a domain name inthat country’s top-level domain designation (e.g., buy a co.uk website for aU.K.-targeted site). Also buy the .com version of your domain name and pointit at your country-specific location." Oftentimes certain directories and search engines will either be biased towardlocal sites will or only let local sites in the index. “Local” may mean endingwith a local domain and/or being hosted on a server in that country." Host your site with a reliable host. I recommend DreamHost or Pair.com." For dynamic sites, make sure your host supports the technology you will beusing (such as ASP or PHP) before spending money.
9Keyword SelectionKeywords are what help your site get recognized by Internet search engines,and as a result, help would-be customers find your Internet presence. Thereare many strategies that can be employed to ensure the likelihood of yourwebsite coming up in keyword searches:" Use a keyword tool to help you find the most targeted keywords for your site.The tool at http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword/ is free and cross-referencesjust about every useful keyword research tool on the market." Pick themes or keyword baskets around which you can optimize the varioussections of your site." Targeting keyword phrases is a much better idea than trying to target individualwords. Keyword phrases tend to be easier to rank well for AND they typicallyconvert far better than individual words." Target different keyword phrases on each page." Target no more than one or two primary and two or three secondary keywordphrases per page." If you generate hundreds (or even thousands) of pages of content, make surethey read well and have unique content. Over time, if people cite your content,your page will start to rank for many different terms as long as it is unique andtargeted around a theme.Page OptimizationPage optimization is the process of making sure that your website functions inthe most effective way possible in relation to search engines. The followingare steps you can take to optimize your page:" Use your keywords in your page title. Place the most important keywordphrase close to the beginning of the page title. Do not put your site title onevery page of your site unless you are really trying to brand that name. In thatscenario, it still is usually best to place the site name at the end of the pagetitles." Shorter site titles are usually better than really long ones." Sometimes I overlap related keyword phrases in the page title. Overlappingkeyword phrases in the page title can help you pick up multiple search phrases.For example, professional search engine marketing services helps me obtain goodrankings for (1) search engine marketing, (2) professional search engine marketing, (3)search engine marketing services, and (4) professional search engine marketing services." Meta tags are not extremely important, but they can help some. The metadescription should be a sentence to a paragraph describing the page contents.The meta description tag can be seen in some search results, so you want towrite it for human eyes and for it be compelling." The meta keywords tag is probably not worth the time to make, but if you domake one, it should contain your primary keyword and its commonmisspellings and synonyms. Each keyword phrase in the keywords tag shouldbe comma separated.
10" Use a single, descriptive H1 header on your page containing the keywordphrases similar to those you targeted in the page title. This helps reinforce thepage title." Use descriptive subheaders (H2 or H3) before every paragraph or every fewparagraphs. This improves usability and helps define what the page is about tosearch engines without making the page look like it was written for a searchengine." Use bulleted lists and bolding to break up content and make it easier to read." Write your content for human consumption. If you write exclusively forsearch engines, the pages will read poorly and nobody will want to look atthem.Home Page OptimizationIn addition to page optimization for search engines, it is also important tooptimize your sites home page for customers in order to make sure itfunctions efficiently." Make sure your home page builds credibility and directs consumers to themost important parts of your site." Target your most competitive keyword phrase with the home page or with apage that is directly linked to from the home page." Link to the major theme pages from your home page." Link to your home page from every page of your site. Include your site nameand/or the home page’s primary keyword phrase in the text links pointing toit." If you think your site is being filtered out of the search results for being toofocused on a word or phrase, you may want to make the link to your homepage just say something like “home”.Site OptimizationYour home page is just the starting point for what will probably be a verymulti-layered and multifaceted website. As such, it is important to look atevery page your site contains to ensure a cohesive, streamlined design thatworks well with search engines as well as customers. Keep the following inmind:" Use text-based navigation." If you use graphic navigation, use descriptive alt text for your image links, andlink to your primary pages from every page of your site using footer text links." Use descriptive/keyword-rich breadcrumb navigation to help search enginesunderstand the structure of your site.e.g., home page link(use keywords in it) > level 1 > level 2 >page I am on" Use a site map to help search engines spider through your site.
11" Whenever possible, use descriptive text when linking between pages of yoursite." Link to other resources that improve your user’s experience. If you referenceresearch and trusted sources within your content, readers will think of yourcontent as information, rather than simply being sales-oriented." Deep link to related articles and content from within the active content sectionof your page copy." If you want your site to convert, assume many site visitors will ignore theglobal navigation. Actively guide people toward conversion from within theactive content area of your website. This website, http://www.AndyHagans.com,does an excellent job of this." Use CSS to improve the look and feel of your pages. Put it in an external file.Registering With DirectoriesRegister your site with the major directories and second-tier general directories.Try to register with about a half-dozen to a dozen of the better general directories ifyou are targeting Google. If you are targeting the other engines first and can waiton Google, you may want to register with about twenty to fifty general directories.Register with at least a couple local or niche-specific directories. Niche-specificdirectories are findable via search engines and some are listed athttp://www.isedb.com, but you should check to ensure they provide static links beforespending money registering your sites, although directories that rank well maydeliver quality traffic even if they do not provide direct links.Search for things like “<my keywords> + <add URL>” to find other nichedirectories.Oftentimes I do not mind spending hundreds of dollars getting links from differentsites (or directories) across many different IP ranges. Many of the second-tierdirectories charge a one-time fee for listing, and some of them allow you to addyour sites free if you become an editor.In my directory of directories, I have 50-100 general directories listed in the generaldirectory categories. Most top ranking sites in mildly competitive fields do nothave text links from fifty different sites pointing to them, so if you can afford it,doing this offers a huge advantage to you for your Yahoo! and MSN rankings, butyou need to choose directories carefully when considering how TrustRank(explained in the Google section of this e-book) may effect Google.If you are in more competitive fields and rent some powerful links, these listings invarious directories can help stabilize your rankings when search engine algorithmsshift.Some directories I highly recommend are Yahoo!, DMOZ, Business.com, JoeAnt,Best of the Web, and Gimpsy.
12Link BuildingIn the area of link building, there are many important factors to remember.After all, link building is the single most important part of achieving a high-ranking website in modern search engines. As such, there are many things thatcan significantly impact the growth and spread of links to your site:" Make sure your site has something that other webmasters in your niche wouldbe interested in linking to." Create content that people will be willing to link to, even if it is not directlyeasy to monetize. These linkworthy pages will lift the authority and rankingsof all pages on your site." Create something that legitimate webmasters interested in your topic would beinterested in linking to." When possible, try to get your keywords in many of the links pointing to yourpages." Register with, participate in, or trade links with topical hubs and related sites.Be in the discussion or at least be near the discussion." Look for places from which you can get high-quality free links (like locallibraries or chambers of commerce)." If you have some good internal content, try to get direct links to your innerpages." Produce articles and get them syndicated to more authoritative sites." Start an interesting and unique blog and write about your topics, products,news, and other sites in your community." Comment on other sites with useful relevant and valuable comments." Participate in forums to learn about what your potential consumers think isimportant. What questions do they frequently have? How do you solve thoseproblems?" Issue press releases with links to your site." Leave glowing testimonials for people and products you really like.Oftentimes when the product owner or person posts the testimonials, they willinclude a link back to your site." Sponsor charities, blogs, or websites related to your site." Consider renting links if you are in an extremely competitive industry. Adult,gaming, credit, and pharmacy categories will likely require link rentals and/orbuilding topical link networks." Mix your link text up. Adding words like buy or store to the keywords in yoursome of your link text can make it look like more natural linkage data and helpyou rank well for many targeted secondary phrases." Survey your vertical and related verticals. What ideas/tools/articles havebecome industry standard tools or well-cited information? What ideas aremissing from the current market space that could also fill that niche?" If you have a large site, make sure you create legitimate reasons for people towant to reference more than just your home page." If you are looking to hire an SEO, you may want to look athttp://www.honestseo.com or feel free to ask me to recommend you to someone.
13" Brett Tabke (owner of WebmasterWorld) wrote a quick guide worth looking atbefore building your site: http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/2010.htmWhen Algorithm Changes OccurYour rankings will improve. They will also get worse. Many people rush off tochange things right away when the algorithms change. Sometimes the searchengines roll in new algorithms aggressively, and then later roll them back. Theycannot fight off new forms of spam and determine how aggressive to be with newalgorithms unless they sometimes go too far with them.If you are unsure of what just happened, then you may not want to start changingthings until you figure it out. Sometimes when algorithms are rolled back or madeless aggressive, many sites still do not rank well because their webmasters changedthings that were helping them. Nobody is owed a good rank, and just because aranking temporarily changes does not mean that a site has been penalized. It is farmore likely that the ranking criteria shifted and the site may not match the newranking criteria as well as it matched the old ranking criteria.One of the greatest SEO techniques is knowing when to do nothing at all. I hadone client with whom I shared profit, but for whom I did not do much work afterthe first few months. Why? After I built his site up, he had a strong marketposition. I could have kept building many links, but it would not help him reachmuch more of the market. It would have added nothing but cost and risk. If youare too aggressive, it adds to the risk profile without adding much on the rewardside.Tim Mayer, a well-known Yahoo! search engineer, once mentioned that it did notmake sense to bring a knife to a gun fight (when referring to how to compete forterms like Viagra). The opposite also holds true -- if you are using a shotgun, andthe competing sites are using slingshots, then you stand a greater chance of beingpenalized.All SEO techniques are just a balance of risk versus reward, and while you want torank at or near the top of the search results, you probably do not want to usetechniques that are exceptionally aggressive as compared to the other top-rankingsites if you intend to build a site for long-term profits.Common SEO Abuse TechniquesThere is no such thing as a perfectly optimized page. Search engines do not want toreturn the most optimized page, but the page that best satisfies the searcher’sgoals.If you have a page title and H1 header that are exactly the same, and all of yourinternal links and all of your inbound links from other sites pointing to that pageuse that same text, then that looks suspicious (like attempted rankingmanipulation). As a result, the search engines may de-weight that or filter that outof the search results.
14How do you minimize your risks and make your site more stable? It’s best to mixthings up a bit and create something that markets itself. Or, try looking at thingslike a search engine engineer would.There is a concept called poison words, where if you have things like link exchange, addURL, or link partners on a page, there stands a good chance a search engines mayplace less weight on that page or its outbound links. In the past, some commonpoison words were things like forum and guestbook. The more likely the content is tobe of low quality or related to spam, the more likely search engines want to de-weight it.Search engines may want to penalize the use of “spammy” sites using an H1header, so instead people use an H2 header for the highest level header tag on thespammy sites. Maybe they look to de-weight site-wide links to the home page nearthe end of the page code using the exact same link text as the home page’s pagetitle, so instead you link to the home page from earlier in the page code and/or useslightly different anchor text than your page title and most of your link profile.Keep in mind that some of the search relevancy algorithms are genetic algorithmsthat train themselves to test the relevancy of new result sets, but humans stillprogram them. Google wants to have a bias toward informational resources.Yahoo! will be more biased toward commerce. These biases can affectoptimization, as well.In addition, some guys like DaveN mention lots of subtle tips like the ones I justdiscussed. If you think like a search engineer, those techniques that are common inSEO and not so common on regular websites are the most likely to be de-weightedor penalized. Remember that optimizing content is about matching quality signs,but if you match too many too closely, it could send a negative signal.Appearing NaturalA recent theme in SEO is finding ways to appear natural. Search engines do notwant the most optimized sites at the top of the search results. They want the bestpages and best sites.There are only so many things search engines can look at to determine the qualityof a website. You can emulate many of them, but as search algorithms advance, itwill continue to get more difficult. Inevitably, influencing people directly (insteadof going after the algorithms) is going to have a higher ROI for many webmasters.How do you create a natural linkage profile? Create something that lots of peoplelink to without you needing to ask them. Build a real brand that will get people’sattention.How do you write optimized content? Make the page title clear and then writecontent remarkable enough that people will want to reference it.
15Social ConsiderationsNo matter how smart you are, it is going to be hard to emulate a natural link profileif you manually build it all. Going forward, the key to doing well in Google isearning natural citations. If you didn’t own your site, would you still visit it everyweek? What can you do to grab bloggers’ attention? What can you do to makesome of your competitors want to link to your site without you needing to ask forthe links?Closing TipsThe web is nothing but a big social network. SEO was my entry to the web, but Ihave bigger hopes, dreams, and goals in mind. No matter what your goals are,SEO can help you get there from the start. But at some point, it will be necessaryfor you to find ways to get other people to want to syndicate your ideas. Its kindof like what Abe Lincoln was saying when he said, “With public sentiment, nothingcan fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”I am somewhat altruistic in that I believe if you study and do what you areinterested in (even if it is on the side to start), then eventually it will drive youtoward success.I also want to share a quote with you from Weaving the Web by one my favorite webpersonalities, and the man who created the Web, Tim Berners-Lee:People have sometimes asked me whether I am upset that I have notmade a lot of money from the Web. In fact, I made some quiteconscious decisions about which way to take my life. These I wouldnot change - though I am making no comment on what I might do inthe future. What does distress me, though, is how important aquestion it seems to be to some. This happens mostly in America,not Europe. What is maddening is the terrible notion that a person’svalue depends on how important and financially successful they are,and that that is measured in terms of money. That suggestsdisrespect for the researchers across the globe developing ideas forthe next leaps in science and technology. Core in my upbringing wasa value system that put monetary gain well in its place, behind thingslike doing what I really want to do. To use net worth as a criterion bywhich to judge people is to set our children’s’ sights on cash ratherthan on things that will actually make them happy.Most successful web-based businesses do not need to actively practice SEO.Optimizing for search engines does help improve the bottom line and help get youfound, but after you are found, it is up to you to convert. It is up to you how hardand creatively you work to develop your business and reputation.If this is the last book or e-book you ever read about running your business online,I would consider that a mistake. I try to read at least one book a month (it wasabout three a week when I was just getting started on the web). While not
16everyone has that much time, it is always a good call to keep learning new stuff.Rarely do I ever read a book without learning an important lesson or good idea.As mentioned before, the web is a big social network, and it gives quick feedback.Do not be afraid to read from, and learn from, competitors and people in otherfields. Do not be afraid to participate in it…that is how you really learn. If younever make a mistake and never screw up badly, then you probably won’t do toomany spectacular things either.Search engines try to emulate users who are largely driven by the social connectionsoff the web. Create friendships and get media coverage and you win.I am not a creative genius nor am I a branding expert, but if you need help comingup with another angle to promote your business from or need SEO help, don’thesitate to shoot me an e-mail and I will see if and how I can help in any way.Also, create a blog to see if you like writing. Too few people ever actually speaktheir mind in this world. This blogging website (http://www.blogger.com) is free andeasy to set up. Or, if you are a bit more technically inclined, I would recommendusing http://wordpress.org/.Best of luck with everything & to your success,Aaron
17SEO Quick-Start ChecklistPicking a Product! Analyze your product. Are you interested in it yourself?! Analyze your market. Is it oversaturated? Is it growing or changing?! Is it easy to order your product from the web? Or are you selling commodity dogfood that is expensive to ship?! What can you do to be unique in the market?! What creative and original ideas can you add to your site?Picking a Domain Name! FOR NEW SITES: Ponder your domain name choice. Depending on your brandstrategy, it should either be highly brandable or have your primary keywords in it.! Consider buying different domain names for each targeted language or niche inyour market.Domain Registration & Hosting! Choose an ICANN accredited registrar.! Register a .com as soon as possible.! Register a country’s top-level domain if your primary market is local in nature.! Choose a host that supports the technology you will be using (ASP or PHP, etc.).Keyword Selection! Use keyword tools and customer feedback to find the most targeted keywordphrases for your site.! Develop grouped themes of keywords that reflect the different sections of yoursite.! Keeping within a grouped theme, choose different keywords to target each page.Page Optimization! Put your chosen words for each page in your page title tags. Make sure your pagetitle tag text is unique to each page.! Write a description for the meta description tag. Make sure your description isunique to each page.! Use only one H1 header per page, and target similar keyword phrases as the onesyou targeted when writing the page title.! Use subheaders H2 and H3 on your page when necessary.! Use bulleted lists and bolding to make content easier to read.! Make sure your text is written for human consumption—not bots.Home Page Optimization! Make sure your home page builds credibility and directs consumers to the mostimportant parts of your site.! Target your most competitive keyword on your home page or a page that is wellintegrated into your site.! Link to major theme pages from your home page.! Link to your home page from every sub page.
18Site Optimization! Use text-based navigation.! If you already have, or insist on using, graphic navigation, use descriptive alt texton the images, and link to every primary page from your sub pages in the footer ofthe sub pages.! Use descriptive keyword breadcrumb navigation.! Make a site map.! Check the text that links pages of your site to make sure it’s descriptive wheneverpossible.! Link to resources outside your own site that improve each users experience.! Deep link to related articles and content from your page copy.! Rely as little as possible on the site navigation. Instead, guide your visitor throughyour site with links in the active content portion of the site.! Link to, and use, a cascading style sheet from every page.! Avoid duplicate content issues. Ensure that each page has significantly uniquecontent that does not exist on other pages on your site or other sites.Registering With Directories! Register your site with the major directories.! Register your site with a couple better second-tier directories.! Register with a couple local or niche-specific directories.Link Building! Make sure your site has something that other webmasters in your niche would beinterested in linking to.! Create content that people will be willing to link at even if it is not directly easy tomonetize. These linkworthy pages will lift the authority and rankings of all pageson your site.! When possible, get your keywords in the link text pointing to your site.! Register with, participate in, or trade links with topical hubs and related sites. Bein the discussion or at least be near the discussion.! Look for places to get high-quality free links from (like local libraries or chambersof commerce).! Produce articles and get them syndicated to more authoritative sites.! Participate in forums to learn about what your potential consumers think isimportant.! Issue press releases with links to your site.! Leave glowing testimonials for people and products you really like.! Start an interesting and unique blog and write about your topics, products, news,and other sites in your community.! Comment on other sites with useful relevant and valuable comments.! Sponsor charities, blogs, or websites related to your site.! Consider renting links if you are in an extremely competitive industry.! Mix your link text up, if you can.! Survey your vertical and related verticals. What ideas/tools/articles have becomeindustry standard tools or well-cited information? What ideas are missing?! Read Brett Tabke’s quick couple-page guidehttp://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/2010.htm
19How to Read this e-bookThere are many sections in this e-book. Most of them relate to search marketing,although some of them relate to other aspects of the web.While I actively market this book as being about search engine optimization, it isactually more about everything I know about marketing on the web. While thereare many guides to how and where to start on the web, most of them are laced withaffiliate links and bogus recommendations. The goal of this guide is what I hadwished I read when I jumped on the web a few years ago. I also reference the mostuseful resources I have found in each field so that if you are interested in learningmore about those subjects, you can see what I recommend.Some areas might read well, whereas others might be a bit choppy. The reason forthis is that I rewrite sections of it frequently. What started off as a 24-page file is, acouple of years later, a few hundred pages long. I try to reread it as often as I canwithout getting burned out from reading it too much. It is a hard balance to strikebetween constantly learning and updating everything I have learned. At the sametime, I have to learn about search in depth so that I can also provide better-than-average information about that topic.If you already know a topic covered in a certain section of this book, well then, youmay not learn much (or anything) from that section. I don’t expect to be able totell a 20-year professional copywriter how to do her job. The point of the othersections is that SEO works much better as a marketing mechanism if you use it inconjunction with other ideas, and do not attempt to do SEO on its own.SEO as a Standalone ProductSearch algorithms are still in their infancy. Many people will still be able to runsuccessful businesses doing nothing but SEO for at least a few years to come.When I was new to SEO, and only knew a bit about it, I did not have a strongbrand or understand marketing well. I did things like rank people for terms worthhundreds of thousands of dollars while charging them a one-time $300 fee. Didmy efforts pay off? Sure, but due to my ignorance of the business end of theprocess, I still almost wound up bankrupt because I undercharged for services.As you learn more about the value of SEO and how it integrates into the web, youshould be able to increase your income or social reach significantly. Only bypairing SEO with other marketing methods or viewing the web through a largerlens will you be able to fully appreciate the value of SEO.If you do not know what PPC, CSS, SSI, CMS, or many of the acronyms mean, itdoes not make sense to try to learn all of them in one day. It took me a couple ofyears to learn what I have written in this e-book. With that said, in many areas it issufficient to understand how or why something works, without knowing all the
20deepest details. If you need help knowing what an acronym means, check out mySEO glossary at http://www.seobook.com/glossary/.On top of being a book to read, I also wanted this book to act as a reference guide.The index makes it quick and easy to flip through to a specific area if you want tolook at something more in-depth later.While some of this guide talks about technical details, they may not be thatimportant for the average webmaster to know. For example, latent semanticindexing finds mathematical patterns in language and determines what concepts apage represents using mathematics to represent those words. All most peoplereally need to know about latent semantic indexing is that those types of algorithmswould favor natural writing over unnatural keyword stuffed gibberish.There are many other algorithms and ideas driving search, but at the end of theday, the end goal of all the algorithms is to favor useful content that people careabout so the results are relevant, which, in turn, allows the engines to make moremoney serving ads.Content has many meanings though, and there are different ways to make contentuseful to different people. This is not a rule-filled, exact guide for what you shoulddo to promote your site. Think of it more as a guide to a way of thinking ofcreative marketing ideas. Some of the ideas in this e-book are here to spark yourcreativity and to help you think of ways to gain strong advantages over yourcompetition.Any Internet marketing method that is only formula-based misses the social aspectsof the web and, therefore, can fall into any one of the following pitfalls:" Leaving footprints that are easy to detect and discount (and thus has a highrisk to reward ratio, and/or may be a complete waste of time)." Leaving footprints that are easy for competitors to duplicate (and thus buildsno competitive advantage)." Ignoring your strengths and weaknesses, thereby wasting your time with beingfocused on a formula, instead of taking advantage of your strengths andminimizing your weaknesses." Being beaten in the search results when an open-minded, creative competitorleverages the social aspects of the web.The goal of this book is to help you think up unique ideas that help you build realvalue, social/business relationships, and competitive advantages that are hard toduplicate.I have worked with Fortune 500 companies worth tens and even hundreds ofbillions of dollars, and I have also built five-page websites. Don’t think everythingin this book has to apply to you or your website. Take the pieces that make senseand use them to build and leverage your reach and brand value.
21The Social Elements of RelevancySince many of you who have bought will not read all of it, I need to make sure Ideliver great value in the first few pages to ensure you get your money’s worth.Relevancy is never static. Due to commercial market forces, search isCONSTANTLY broken. Thus, if you think of this e-book as a literal guide, it toowill always be broken. Instead of thinking of the web and search in terms ofalgorithms it helps to think of the web as a large social network. Ask yourselfquestions like" What are people talking about?" What stories are spreading?" Why are they spreading?" Who is spreading them?" How are they spreading them?The reason search relies so heavily on the social elements is that page content andsite structure are so easy to manipulate. It takes a mind well-tuned into marketingto be able to influence or manipulate people directly.There are ways to fake authority, and when you are new it may make sense to pushthe envelope on some fronts. But invariably, anything that is widely manipulated isnot a strong signal of authority.Here is an advertisement I found in Gmail (Google’s email service):Notice that their ads said they were selling Google PageRank. Then if you went totheir site, the ads looked like this:Google wants to count real editorial votes. Consider the following:" It is not common for news sites to link section-wide to an online bingo site." Most of the ads are irrelevant to the content of the pages." There are a large number of paid links right next to each other." The site has amazing authority.Given all the above, it makes sense that Google would not want to count thoselinks. When I posted about how overt that PageRank selling was, Matt Cutts, aleading Google engineer, hinted that Google had already taken care of not countingthose links.
22And since UPI is a slow moving, 100 year-old company, the fact that they areselling PageRank should also tell you that Google’s relevancy algorithms havemoved far beyond just considering PageRank. I have PageRank 5 sites that get 100times the traffic that some of my PageRank 7 sites do, because they have bettercontent and a more natural link profile.If you do buy links, think of the page as though you were an editor for a searchengineer. Does the link look like it is a natural part of the page? Or is it anobviously purchased link?What if instead of thinking of ways to try to create false authority, you looked at theweb in terms of a social network, where the best ideas and the best marketed ideasspread? Now that might get you somewhere.Starting from BrokeWhat if you are starting with nothing? Can you still compete? Of course you can.At the end of 2002, I got kicked out of the military for using drugs. At that point, Iwas experiencing a number of things:" Suicidal depression" Financial bankruptcy, living on credit cards" Social isolation" Ignorance to the web, SEO, and marketing (slightly less serious, I know)Within 4 years, I had pulled myself out of this emotional and psychological slump,and had achieved success:" I was fairly knowledgeable about the web, SEO, and marketing." I had made lots of friends." I was getting mentioned in the Wall Street Journal (and many othernewspapers)." I was speaking at colleges about SEO (one college even wanted to hire me tobecome a professor)." I had venture capitalists offering to invest in this site." I had a mainstream publisher offer to publish this book.What did I have that allowed me to do well? I had a passion for learning. Thatpassion helped me attract great friends who took me under their wing and helpedme far more than I could have ever expected. It takes time to do well, but if youkeep pushing, keep learning, keep sharing, and are trying to help others, eventuallyyou will do well on the web.Many true web authorities started out as topical hubs. People who had no intent ofcreating a business would just freely talk about a subject they loved, and linked outto related websites they found useful. Every web marketer should read this post:http://chartreuse.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/why-paris-hilton-is-famous-or-understanding-value-in-a-post-madonna-world/
23You become a platform worthy of attention by talking about others who areworthy of attention. Getting people to pay attention is a real cost. You have to getpeople to pay attention before you can extract value from your work.To most people, the single most relevant and important thing in the world isthemselves.Here is a quote from Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy:If you have been rejected many times in your life, then one morerejection isnt going to make much difference. If youre rejected,dont automatically assume its your fault. The other person mayhave several reasons for not doing what you are asking her to do:none of it may have anything to do with you. Perhaps the personis busy or not feeling well or genuinely not interested in spendingtime with you. Rejections are part of everyday life. Dont let thembother you. Keep reaching out to others. When you begin toreceive positive responses then you are on the right track. Its all amatter of numbers. Count the positive responses and forget aboutthe rejections.You are not always going to be able to predict what will work and what doesn’t, butthe more you keep learning and the more things you try the better the odds are thatsomething will stick. Internet marketing is just like offline marketing, but cheaper,faster, and more scalable.Questions, Comments & ConcernsSome people ask me to do ten hours worth of competitive analysis for free.Generally, I cannot do hours of consulting for free, but if you have a quickquestion or do not understand something, please make sure you e-mail me so I cantry my best to help you.You bought this book hoping to get useful and easy-to-understand information,and my goal is to give that to you. I have probably read millions of forum posts andweb pages, so many of the random thoughts scattered throughout this e-bookmight not make a bunch of sense to someone who has not done the same. Someof the ideas came from errors I made on my sites, and some of them came fromerrors friends made.Most sites do not end up getting banned or penalized from search engines withoutreason, although on rare occasion it does happen. Sometimes engines are quick torespond, and sometimes they do not care much. As you learn more about whythey do certain things and how the business aspects play into the algorithms, itbecomes easier to evaluate where they might go and how they might try to gothere.SEO is both reactive and proactive.
24If a section of my e-book is not clear to you or does not make sense, then that ismy fault and I should explain it to you. Feel free to send me an e-mail if you haveANY questions.This book is primarily my voice and how I understand the web. To help give you abroader perspective, I also interviewed many search, marketing, and web experts. Irecommend you also read the bonus interviews at http://www.seobook.com/seo-interviews.pdf.Best of luck with your sites,-Aaronseobook@gmail.comInteractive ElementsLiteratureChartreuse. “Why Paris Hilton is Famous (Or Understanding Value In aPost- Madonna World).” 2006. Chartreuse Internet MediaNetwork Management. 18 September 2006.<http://chartreuse.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/why-paris-hilton- is- famous-or-understanding-value-in-a-post-madonna-world/>.Wall, Aaron. “SEO Glossary.” SEO Book. 02 December 2006. <http://www.seobook.com/glossary/>.---. “SEO Interviews.” SEO Book. 02 December 2006. <http://www.seobook.com/seo-interviews.pdf/>.
25Why Search?Search engines take advantage of reverse broadcast networks to help save time andmoney. They are instant answer systems that provide ultra-targeted advertising.Search allows you to sell what your customers want, when they want it.Finding ProspectsI had just finished reading Permission Marketing by Seth Godin when I becameengaged in one of the most interesting chat sessions of my life. A random kidfrom California instant messaged me to say hello. In much the same way as othermarketers do, he scouted the web to find his ideal client. This guy searchedthrough Yahoo! profiles and found that on my profile I wrote that I collectedbaseball cards.He wanted to know if Barry Bonds was my favorite player. He told me he had over16,000 Barry Bonds cards. I told him that I had an autographed serial numberedBarry Bonds rookie, but baseball cards did not mean much to me anymore.I asked if he did business over the Internet. He, of course, said no. It was clear tome why. He had no way to display any of his cards, and he was using spam tocontact people. I asked him if he wanted to have a website on which to sell hiscards.He told me he couldn’t afford it; he said that it was too expensive. But, I thought,what is a fair price for limitless distribution?Baseball cards, like many collectible commodities, usually drop in value rathersharply once a player retires or that collectible goes out of fashion. Not only doesthe price drop, but demand plummets. It’s a logarithmic loss of value. I havepicked up Robin Yount and Dave Winfield rookies for $5 and $8 each; both cardswent for $100 or more in their heyday.This kid wanted to buy my autographed Barry Bonds rookie card to add to his16,000 Bonds cards. Even though he‘ll never sell them, he thought he was doingbusiness. I sold baseball cards back in high school, and I knew how to do it well.But I did not know it well when I started. I was trying to sell expensive cards toChapter1With search you do nothunt for your customers.While they are activelyinterested in your productsor services, they hunt foryou.
26people who did not want to spend much money. What did I learn? Sell what yourcustomers want, when they want it.I still displayed some of my $400 and up baseball cards, just to get the “oohs” and“ahhs.” I learned that once you have a crowd, many people follow just to see whatis going on, and then you can make sales. I knew I would not sell these cards. Sowhat did I change?I created a display case with stacks of all the major stars and local popular players.Each card was $1.00. It did not matter if the card was worth twenty-five cents orfour dollars; I just put $1.00 on each of them. I kept up with whom was doing welland would buy up cards of players that were about to become popular. Buy-priceranged from three cents to a quarter a card. Most of the cards I bought wereconsidered ‘junk’ by the sellers, yet I re-sold most within a month or two.By taking the time to go through their junk and making ordering simple, I mademoney. That $1 display case was a gold mine. Usually, that case sold more cardsthan my good cases did. Also, I had very little invested—other than taking the timeto organize the cards.So, I decided I would do this kid a favor and send him a free book onmarketing from my favorite author. When I asked him if he wanted a freemarketing book, he got angry, even though I was trying to help him. Insteadof considering my offer, he spouted off Eminem lyrics, telling me that “[hed]rather put out a mother****ing gospel record.”All of his frustration, all of his anger, and all of his wasted time were unnecessary.That is why search is powerful. You do not hunt for your customers, they hunt foryou. You pick the keywords, and the customer picks you. You not only sell whatyour customers want, but you also sell it while they are actively looking for it.The $1 baseball card case is a good analogy for effective search engineoptimization. Imagine the cards in that case as being web pages. It is great to rankwell for a term like SEO, but by ranking well for various small volume searches youmay be able to make far more money in the long run. Longer search phrases havemore implied intent, thus are far more targeted, and convert at a higher rate.Having a social element to your site or business is like having the $400 baseballcard in the case. The people who reference the interesting parts of your site buildup your authority. Based on that authority, search engines learn to trust other partsof your site and send visitors to those pages, as well.You can think of web traffic like my baseball cards. Due to the vastness of themarket and market inefficiencies, there will always be many ways to make money.If you learn how to spread ideas and build an audience, you can make a windfall ofprofits.Interactive ElementsLiterature
27Godin, Seth. Permission Marketing. New York: Simon & Schuster,1999. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684856360/.)Some Notes" List five problems your product or products solve. Which of theseproblems are most important to your target audience?" Is there a problem your product solves that no other products do?" Do you have a UNIQUE value proposition that will help you stand out inthe crowd? (This could be being better targeted, more up-to-date, faster,more reliable, safer, etc.). What do you do better than anyone else?" List ten terms or phrases your target audience would search for to findyour products." Calculate the time you spend prospecting clients and the value of that time." Calculate the money you will save if you cut that time in half by rankingwell for a few of the terms you listed.
28Brief History of the WebThe web has become a direct marketers dream. In its infancy, the web was basedaround the core idea of sharing knowledge. The closer your ideas are in some wayaligned with this idea, the easier it will be to promote your site.The Goal of Search Engines & How They WorkSearch Engine RelevancyMany people think search engines have a hidden agenda. This simply is not true.The goal of the search engine is to provide high-quality content to people searchingthe Internet.Search engines with the broadest distribution network sell the most advertisingspace. As I write this, Google is considered the search engine with the bestrelevancy. Their technologies power the bulk of web searches.The Problem Listing a New SiteThe biggest problem new websites have is that search engines have no idea theyexist. Even when a search engine finds a new document, it has a hard timedetermining its quality. Search engines rely on links to help determine the qualityof a document. Some engines, such as Google, also trust websites more as theyage.The following bits may contain a few advanced search topics. It is fine if you donot necessarily understand them right away; the average webmaster does not needto know search technology in depth. Some might be interested in it, so I havewritten a bit about it with those people in mind. (If you are new to the web anduninterested in algorithms, you may want to skip past this to the search resultimage on page 35.)I will cover some of the parts of the search engine in the next few pages whiletrying to keep it somewhat basic. It is not important that you fully understand allof it (in fact, I think it is better for most webmasters if they do not worry aboutthings like Inverse Document Frequency, as I ranked well for competitive SEO-related terms without knowing anything about the technical bits of search);however, I would not feel right leaving the information out.Chapter2
29Gerard SaltonThe phrase vector space model, which search algorithms still heavily rely upon today,goes back to the 1970s. Gerard Salton was a well-known expert in the field ofinformation retrieval who pioneered many of today’s modern methods. If you areinterested in learning more about early information retrieval systems, you may wantto read A Theory of Indexing, which is a short book by Salton that describes many ofthe common terms and concepts in the information retrieval field.Mike Grehan’s book, Search Engine Marketing: The Essential Best Practices Guide, alsodiscusses some of the technical bits to information retrieval in more detail than thisbook. My book was created to be a current how-to guide, while his is geared moretoward giving information about how information retrieval works.Parts of a Search EngineWhile there are different ways to organize web content, every crawling searchengine has the same basic parts:" a crawler" an index (or catalog)" a search interfaceCrawler (or Spider)The crawler does just what its name implies. It scours the web following links,updating pages, and adding new pages when it comes across them. Each searchengine has periods of deep crawling and periods of shallow crawling. There is alsoa scheduler mechanism to prevent a spider from overloading servers and to tell thespider what documents to crawl next and how frequently to crawl them.Rapidly changing or highly important documents are more likely to get crawledfrequently. The frequency of crawl should typically have little effect on searchrelevancy; it simply helps the search engines keep fresh content in their index. Thehome page of CNN.com might get crawled once every ten minutes. A popular,rapidly growing forum might get crawled a few dozen times each day. A static sitewith little link popularity and rarely changing content might only get crawled onceor twice a month.The best benefit of having a frequently crawled page is that you can get your newsites, pages, or projects crawled quickly by linking to them from a powerful orfrequently changing page.
31page code appear ahead of the navigation, but if it does not take much additionaleffort, it is probably worth doing. Link analysis (discussed in depth later) is farmore important than page copy to most search algorithms, but every little bit canhelp.Google has also hired some people from Mozilla and is likely working on helpingtheir spider understand how browsers render pages. Microsoft published visuallysegmenting research that may help them understand what page content is mostimportant.As well as storing the position of a word, search engines can also store how thedata are marked up. For example, is the term in the page title? Is it a heading?What type of heading? Is it bold? Is it emphasized? Is it in part of a list? Is it inlink text?Words that are in a heading or are set apart from normal text in other ways may begiven additional weighting in many search algorithms. However, keep in mind thatit may be an unnatural pattern for your keyword phrases to appear many times inbold and headings without occurring in any of the regular textual body copy. Also,if a page looks like it is aligned too perfectly with a topic (i.e., overly-focused so asto have an abnormally high keyword density), then that page may get a lowerrelevancy score than a page with a lower keyword density and more natural pagecopy.ProximityBy storing where the terms occur, search engines can understand how close oneterm is to another. Generally, the closer the terms are together, the more likely thepage with matching terms will satisfy your query.If you only use an important group of words on the page once, try to make surethey are close together or right next to each other. If words also occur naturally,sprinkled throughout the copy many times, you do not need to try to rewrite thecontent to always have the words next to one another. Natural sounding content isbest.Stop WordsWords that are common do not help search engines understand documents.Exceptionally common terms, such as the, are called stop words. While searchengines index stop words, they are not typically used or weighted heavily todetermine relevancy in search algorithms. If I search for the Cat in the Hat, searchengines may insert wildcards for the words the and in, so my search will look like‘*cat**hat’.Index NormalizationEach page is standardized to a size. This prevents longer pages from having anunfair advantage by using a term many more times throughout long page copy.This also prevents short pages for scoring arbitrarily high by having a high
32percentage of their page copy composed of a few keyword phrases. Thus, there isno magical page copy length that is best for all search engines.The uniqueness of page content is far more important than the length. Page copyhas three purposes above all others:" To be unique enough to get indexed and ranked in the search result" To create content that people find interesting enough to want to linkto" To convert site visitors into subscribers, buyers, or people who clickon adsNot every page is going to make sales or be compelling enough to link to, but if, inaggregate, many of your pages are of high-quality over time, it will help boost therankings of nearly every page on your site.Keyword Density, Term Frequency & Term WeightTerm Frequency (TF) is a weighted measure of how often a term appears in adocument. Terms that occur frequently within a document are thought to be someof the more important terms of that document.If a word appears in every (or almost every) document, then it tells you little abouthow to discern value between documents. Words that appear frequently will havelittle to no discrimination value, which is why many search engines ignore commonstop words (like the, and, and or).Rare terms, which only appear in a few or limited number of documents, have amuch higher signal-to-noise ratio. They are much more likely to tell you what adocument is about.Inverse Document Frequency (IDF) can be used to further discriminate the valueof term frequency to account for how common terms are across a corpus ofdocuments. Terms that are in a limited number of documents will likely tell youmore about those documents than terms that are scattered throughout manydocuments.When people measure keyword density, they are generally missing some otherimportant factors in information retrieval such as IDF, index normalization, wordproximity, and how search engines account for the various element types. (Is theterm bolded, in a header, or in a link?)Search engines may also use technologies like latent semantic indexing tomathematically model the concepts of related pages. Google is scanning millionsof books from university libraries. As much as that process is about helping peoplefind information, it is also used to help Google understand linguistic patterns.If you artificially write a page stuffed with one keyword or keyword phrase withoutadding many of the phrases that occur in similar natural documents you may not
33show up for many of the related searches, and some algorithms may see yourdocument as being less relevant. The key is to write naturally, using various relatedterms, and to structure the page well.Multiple Reverse IndexesSearch engines may use multiple reverse indexes for different content. Mostcurrent search algorithms tend to give more weight to page title and link text thanpage copy.For common broad queries, search engines may be able to find enough qualitymatching documents using link text and page title without needing to spend theadditional time searching through the larger index of page content. Anything thatsaves computer cycles without sacrificing much relevancy is something you cancount on search engines doing.After the most relevant documents are collected, they may be re-sorted based oninterconnectivity or other factors.Around 50% of search queries are unique, and with longer unique queries, there isgreater need for search engines to also use page copy to find enough relevantmatching documents (since there may be inadequate anchor text to display enoughmatching documents).Search InterfaceThe search algorithm and search interface are used to find the most relevantdocument in the index based on the search query. First the search engine tries todetermine user intent by looking at the words the searcher typed in.These terms can be stripped down to their root level (e.g., dropping ing and othersuffixes) and checked against a lexical database to see what concepts they represent.Terms that are a near match will help you rank for other similarly related terms.For example, using the word swims could help you rank well for swim orswimming.Search engines can try to match keyword vectors with each of the specific terms ina query. If the search terms occur near each other frequently, the search enginemay understand the phrase as a single unit and return documents related to thatphrase.WordNet is the most popular lexical database. At the end of this chapter there is alink to a Porter Stemmer tool if you need help conceptualizing how stemmingworks.
34Searcher FeedbackSome search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, have toolbars and systems likeGoogle Search History and My Yahoo!, which collect information about a user.Search engines can also look at recent searches, or what the search process was forsimilar users, to help determine what concepts a searcher is looking for and whatdocuments are most relevant for the user’s needs.As people use such a system it takes time to build up a search query history and aclick-through profile. That profile could eventually be trusted and used to" aid in search personalization" collect user feedback to determine how well an algorithm is working" help search engines determine if a document is of decent quality (e.g.,if many users visit a document and then immediately hit the backbutton, the search engines may not continue to score that documentwell for that query).I have spoken with some MSN search engineers and examined a video about MSNsearch. Both experiences strongly indicated a belief in the importance of useracceptance. If a high-ranked page never gets clicked on, or if people typicallyquickly press the back button, that page may get demoted in the search results forthat query (and possibly related search queries). In some cases, that may also flag apage or website for manual review.As people give search engines more feedback and as search engines collect a largercorpus of data, it will become much harder to rank well using only links. The moresatisfied users are with your site, the better your site will do as search algorithmscontinue to advance.Real-Time versus Prior-to-Query CalculationsIn most major search engines, a portion of the relevancy calculations are storedahead of time. Some of them are calculated in real time.Some things that are computationally expensive and slow processes, such ascalculating overall inter-connectivity (Google calls this PageRank), are done aheadof time.Many search engines have different data centers, and when updates occur, they rollfrom one data center to the next. Data centers are placed throughout the world tominimize network lag time. Assuming it is not overloaded or down formaintenance, you will usually get search results from the data centers nearest you.If those data centers are down or if they are experiencing heavy load, your searchquery might be routed to a different data center.
35Search Algorithm ShiftsSearch engines such as Google and Yahoo! may update their algorithm dozens oftimes per month. When you see rapid changes in your rankings, it is usually due toan algorithmic shift, a search index update, or something else outside of yourcontrol. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, and some of the effects take a while tokick in.Usually, if you change something on a page, it is not reflected in the search resultsthat same day. Linkage data also may take a while to have an effect on searchrelevancy as search engines need to find the new links before they can evaluatethem, and some search algorithms may trust links more as the links age.The key to SEO is to remember that rankings are always changing, but the moreyou build legitimate signals of trust and quality, the more often you will come outon top.Relevancy Wins Distribution!The more times a search leads to desired content, the more likely a person is to usethat search engine again. If a search engine works well, a person does not justcome back, they also tell their friends about it, and they may even download theassociated toolbar. The goal of all major search engines is to be relevant. If theyare not, they will fade (as many already have).Search Engine Business ModelSearch engines make money when people click on the sponsored advertisements.In the search result below you will notice that both Viagra and Levitra are biddingon the term Viagra. The area off to the right displays sponsored advertisements forthe term Viagra. Google gets paid whenever a searcher clicks on any of thesponsored listings.The white area off to the left displays the organic (free) search results. Google doesnot get paid when people click on these. Google hopes to make it hard for searchengine optimizers (like you and I) to manipulate these results to keep relevancy ashigh as possible and to encourage people to buy ads.Later in this e-book we will discuss both organic optimization and pay-per-clickmarketing.
36Image of Search ResultsOrigins of the WebThe Web started off behind the idea of the free flow of information as envisionedby Tim Berners-Lee. He was working at CERN in Europe. CERN had asomewhat web-like environment in that many people were coming and going andworked on many different projects.Tim created a site that described how the Web worked and placed it live on thefirst server at info.cern.ch. Europe had very little backing or interest in the Webback then, so U.S. colleges were the first groups to set up servers. Tim added linksto their server locations from his directory known as the Virtual Library.Current link popularity measurements usually show college web pages typicallyhave higher value than most other pages do. This is simply a function of thefollowing:" The roots of the WWW started in lab rooms at colleges. It was not untilthe mid to late 1990s that the Web became commercialized." The web contains self-reinforcing social networks." Universities are pushed as sources of authority." Universities are heavily funded." Universities have quality controls on much of their content.
37Early Search EnginesThe Web did not have sophisticated search engines when it began. The mostadvanced information gatherers of the day primitively matched file names. Youhad to know the name of the file you were looking for to find anything. The firstfile that matched was returned. There was no such thing as search relevancy. Itwas this lack of relevancy that lead to the early popularity of directories such asYahoo!.Many search engines such as AltaVista, and later Inktomi, were industry leaders fora period of time, but the rush to market and lack of sophistication associated withsearch or online marketing prevented these primitive machines from havingfunctional business models.Overture was launched as a pay-per-click search engine in 1998. While theOverture system (now known as Yahoo! Search Marketing) was profitable, mostportals were still losing money. The targeted ads they delivered grew in popularityand finally created a functional profit generating business model for large-scalegeneral search engines.Commercialized Cat & MouseWeb = Cheap Targeted MarketingAs the Internet grew in popularity, people realized it was an incredibly cheapmarketing platform. Compare the price of spam (virtually free) to direct mail (~ $1each). Spam fills your inbox and wastes your time.Information retrieval systems (search engines) must also fight off aggressivemarketing techniques to keep their search results relevant. Search engines markettheir problems as spam, but the problem is that they need to improve theiralgorithms.It is the job of search engines to filter through the junk to find and return relevantresults.There will always be someone out there trying to make a quick buck. Who can faultsome marketers for trying to find holes in parasitic search systems that leverageothers’ content without giving any kickback?Becoming a ResourceThough I hate to quote a source I do not remember, I once read that one in threepeople believe the top search result is the most relevant document relating to theirsearch. Imagine the power associated with people finding your view of the worldfirst. Whatever you are selling, someone is buying!
38I have been quoted as a source of information on Islam simply because I wroteabout a conversation I had with a person from Kuwait who called me for help onthe web. I know nothing about Islam, but someone found my post in a searchengine…so I was quoted in their term paper. College professors sourced somesites I am embarrassed to admit I own.Sometimes good things happen to you and sometimes the competition gets lucky.Generally the harder you work, and the more original and useful your site is, themore often you will get lucky.Business LinksAs easy as it is to get syndicated with useful interesting and unique information, it ismuch harder to get syndicated with commercial ideas, especially if the site does notadd significant value to a transaction. Often times links associated with commercialsites are business partnerships.Many people do well to give information away and then attach a product to theirbusiness model. You probably would have never read this e-book if I did not havea blog associated with it. On the same note, it would also be significantly easier forme to build links to SEOBook.com if I did not sell this e-book on it.Depending on your skills, faults, and business model, sometimes it is best to makeyour official voice one site and then sell stuff on another, or add the commercialelements to the site after it has gained notoriety and trust. Without knowingyou, it is hard to advise you which road to take, but if you build value before tryingto extract profits, you will do better than if you do it the other way around.Ease of ReferenceIf my site was sold as being focused on search and I wrote an e-book or bookabout power searching, it would be far easier for me to get links than running a siteabout SEO. For many reasons, the concept of SEO is hated in many circles. Theconcept of search is much easier to link at.Sometimes by broadening, narrowing, or shifting your topic it becomes far easierfor people to reference you.Primitive Search TechnologyAs the Web grew, content grew faster than technology did. The primitive nature ofsearch engines promoted the creation of content, but not the creation of qualitycontent. Search engines had to rely on the documents themselves to state theirpurpose. Most early search engines did not even use the full page content either,relying instead on page title and document name to match results. Then camealong meta tags.
39Meta TagsMeta tags were used to help search engines organize the Web. Documents listedkeywords and descriptions that were used to match user queries. Initially these tagswere somewhat effective, but over time, marketers exploited them and they losttheir relevancy.People began to stuff incredibly large amounts of data (which was frequently offtopic) into these tags to achieve high search engine rankings. Porn and other high-margin websites published meta tags like “free, free, free, free, Disney, free.”Getting a better ranking simply meant you repeated your keywords a few moretimes in the meta tags.Banners, Banners, BannersIt did not help anything that during the first Web bubble stocks were based oneyeballs, not profits. That meant that people were busy trying to buy any type ofexposure they could, which ended up making it exceptionally profitable to spamsearch engines to show off topic random banners on websites.The Bubble BurstThe Internet bubble burst. What caused such a fast economic recovery was theshift from selling untargeted ad impressions to selling targeted leads. This meantthat webmasters lost much of their incentive for trying to get any kind of trafficthey could. Suddenly it made far greater sense to try to get niche-targeted traffic.In 1998, Overture pioneered the pay-per-click business model that most all majorsearch engines rely on. Google AdWords enhanced the model by adding a fewmore variables to the equation—the most important one is factoring ad click-through rate (CTR) into the ad ranking algorithm.Google extended the targeted advertisement marketing by delivering relevantcontextual advertisements on publisher websites via the Google AdSense program.More and more ad spending is coming online because it is easy to track the returnon investment. As search algorithms continue to improve, the value of havingwell-cited, original, useful content increases daily.Advancing Search TechnologyInstead of relying exclusively on page titles and meta tags, search engine now indexthe entire page contents. Since search engines have been able to view entire pages,the hidden inputs (such as meta tags) have lost much of their importance inrelevancy algorithms.The best way for search engines to provide relevant results is to emulate a user andrank the page based on the same things the user see and do (Do users like thiswebsite? Do they quickly hit the back button?), and what other people are saying
40about the document (For example, does anybody link to this page or site? Who islinking at it? What is the link text? And so on.).What is Search Engine Spam?Search engines make billions of dollars each year selling ads. Most search enginetraffic goes to the free, organically listed sites. The ratio of traffic distribution isgoing to be keyword dependent and search engine dependent, but I believe about85% of Google’s traffic clicks on the organic listings. Most other search enginesdisplay ads a bit more aggressively than Google does. In many of those searchengines, organic listings get around 70% of the traffic. Some sites rank well onmerit, while others are there due exclusively to ranking manipulation.In many situations, a proper SEO campaign can provide a much greater ROI thanpaid ads do. This means that while search engine optimizers—known in theindustry as SEOs—and search engines have business models that may overlap,they may also compete with one another for ad dollars. Sometimes SEOs andsearch engines are friends with each other, and, unfortunately, sometimes they areenemies.When search engines return relevant results, they get to deliver more ads. Whentheir results are not relevant, they lose market share. Beyond relevancy, somesearch engines also try to bias the search results to informational sites such thatcommercial sites are forced into buying ads.I have had a single page that I have not actively promoted randomly send mecommission checks for over $1,000. There is a huge sum of money inmanipulating search results. There are ways to improve search engine placementthat go with the goals of the search engines, and there are also ways that go againstthem. Quality SEOs aim to be relevant, whether or not they follow searchguidelines.Many effective SEO techniques may be considered somewhat spammy.Like anything in life, you should make an informed decision about which SEOtechniques you want to use and which ones you do not (and the odds are, you careabout learning the difference, or you wouldn’t be reading this).You may choose to use highly aggressive, “crash and burn” techniques, or slower,more predictable, less risky techniques. Most industries will not require extremelyaggressive promotional techniques. Later on I will try to point out whichtechniques are which.Using Overtly Manipulative TechniquesWhile there will always be ways to manipulate the search engines, there is no tellingif you will eventually get caught and lose your rankings if you optimize your site
41using overtly deceptive techniques. In any business such as SEO, there will bedifferent risk levels.Search engines try hard not to flag false positives (label good sites as spam), sothere is usually a bunch of slack to play with, but many people also make commonmistakes, like incorrectly using a 302 redirect, or not using specific page titles ontheir pages, or allowing spiders to index multiple URLs with the same content. Ifyou are ever in doubt if you are making technical errors, feel free to search a fewSEO forums or ask me.The search engines aim to emulate users. If you design good content for users andbuild a smart linking campaign, eventually it will pay off.New aggressive techniques pop up all the time. As long as they are available,people will exploit them. People will force the issue until search engines close theloophole, and then people will find a new one. The competitive nature of webmarketing forces search engines to continuously improve their algorithms andfilters.In my opinion, the ongoing effort of keeping up with the latest SEO tricks isusually not worth it for most webmasters. Some relational database programmersand people with creative or analytical minds may always be one step ahead, but theaverage business owner probably does not have the time to dedicate to keeping upwith the latest tricks.Tying ethics to SEO techniques is a marketing scam. Either a technique iseffective, or it is not. There is nothing unethical about being aggressive. Youprobably do not want to take big risks with domains you cannot afford to haveblacklisted, but there is nothing wrong with owning a few test sites.Following Google’s GuidanceSome sites that are not aggressively promoted still fall out of favor on occasion. Asa webmaster following Google’s guidelines, you still can not expect Google to oweyou free traffic. You have to earn it by making others cite your website.SEO Feedback LoopThe effects of SEO do take time to kick in. At any given time, considering howdynamically the web changes, there will be some holes in search algorithms thatmake certain SEO techniques exceptionally effective.I have spoken with current search engine engineers working at major searchengines in regards to this e-book. I also have spoken with database programmerswho later became some of the world’s most technically advanced SEOs. Some ofthese programmers have told me what some would consider tricks that work reallywell, but they only work really well because few people know about them.
42I do not try to promote the latest search spamming techniques in this e-book forthe following reasons:" They are the most likely to quickly change. Some things that arecutting-edge and effective today can become ineffective and actuallyhurt you tomorrow." Some of them can be damaging to your brand." Aggressive techniques are the some of the most likely techniques to getyour site banned." Some things are told to me as a secret, and if they are made openlyavailable to anyone (including search engine engineers—some whohave read this e-book), then they lose their value, and I lose my friendsand resources." I do not have a lot of experience with exceptionally aggressivepromotional techniques, as I have not needed them to rank well inmost the markets I worked in." People who use aggressive techniques are not evil or bad, but I cannotpossibly put accurate, current, useful, and risky information out toeveryone in an e-book format and expect it to not cause problems forsome people." To me, effective web promotion is balancing risk versus reward.SEOBook.com got on the first page of Google for SEO within ninemonths of making the site, with less than $5,000 spent on promotion.Most sites do not need to use overly aggressive and risky promotionaltechniques. SEO works so well because most sites on the web do notactively practice effective SEO.Choosing a Domain NameOptional Business ModelsMany web-based businesses fail because they do not have a functional businessmodel. Before you even choose a name for your site you should know your targetaudience, what you intend to sell to them, and what will make your business ideaunique or different than everything else that is already on the market.You can still make significant profits without being sure what you want to sell ifyou can solve large problems and make life easier for a group of targeted people.At any level, you still have to know your goals and the reasons why you are creatinga site.My first few sites failed because they had no functional business models. Theyadded little value to the web. That is not to say that I didn’t learn from them,because I did, but they led me to creating this one. If you are uncertain of yourself,don’t be afraid to create multiple channels just to try them out. If you know youwant to do something for the long run, you may want to spend a bit of timeBefore you pick a domainname, it helps to knowyour target audience, whatyou intend to sell to them,and what makes your siteunique or different thaneverything else that isalready on the market.
43watching the marketplace before pouring too much effort into making a huge sitethat is hard to update.SEOBook.com has done exceptionally well, and it has even revived the value andbusiness models of some of my other sites. The single biggest thing I have goingfor me is the social currency my blog has created.A Horrible Domain IdeaSome people think it is incredibly important to have keywords in a domain. Peoplepurchase domains like look-4-buy-cheap-discount-viagra-online-pharmacy.com.This is a horrible domain name!An exact matching domain name in a competitive market can be seen as a signal ofquality since acquiring one would either indicate that you were early to the marketor paid a premium for the URL. If your site exhibits a number of strong brandrelated characteristics, such as high search volume for brand related keywords, highclickthrough rate for core brand related searches, many repeat visitors, or relevantmatching URL and/or anchor text, there is a good chance that Google will place aset of Sitelinks in the search results for brand related search queries.For example, if someone searches for SEO Book, Google shows the following asthe top resultKeywords in the domain name may help some (as people tend to link to websitesusing their official names as the link text), but if I were going to create a long-termbusiness, I would put brand above keyword-rich, unless you can find somethingthat allows you to leverage both assets.If you are creative, you usually can get keywords in the domain while keeping itshort, memorable, fairly brandable, and free of hyphens.Here is an article about the effect of domain names on anchor text(http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/domain-name.htm). SinceI originally wrote the article, Google has gotten a lot better at detecting naturallinkage data, so it is important to ensure you mix your inbound link text. Tips onmixing anchor text are located in the link building sections of this e-book.
44Dashed Domain NamesDirect marketing mail campaigns usually peak in effectiveness around the thirdexposure to a marketing message. Many shoppers look around. If you want themto come back, you want to have a domain name that will stick in their heads. It canhave keywords in it, but the thing you want more than anything else is a name thatsticks.If the option between having the dash in the domain and not having a dash exists,you are probably better off going without the dash as it looks more professionaland would most likely be more memorable.It is branding suicide to only have users find your site via search engines. If you arehoping to make sales on the first view in search engines, you need strongcopywriting and usability.If you are just using quick-buck-lead-generation websites then you may want to usea keyword-rich hyphenated domain for the small benefit it may offer, but in mostcases, I do not recommend a hyphenated domain name for long-term websites.Long versus Short URLsPeople will forget the words in a domain name that is exceptionally long. Anotherproblem with exceptionally long URLs is that they get cut off in e-mails and someother data transmission types. If you make the idea hard to spread, then you limityour site’s potential income.The Best of Both Worlds!What if you could get some of the benefits of a long keyword rich domain whilestill using a shorter and easy to brand domain name? You can!If you use a short, branded domain, you can still include your keywords in yourpage title and logo to help control how some people link at your site. For example,a company like PayPal can register the domain Paypal.com, but put the wordspayment solutions or online payments in their logo near the word PayPal. Some peoplewill reference them with those words as part of the company name.Search engines associate words that occur near one another. For example,Google showed the following as suggested advertisements.On the far right notice how Google realized that my name and the name of mystrongest brand are related.If you can work your name or your company name into the default topicalvocabulary of a search, you will have a strong advantage over your competitors.Using your keywords inyour domain name canincrease click-throughrates on search enginelistings and paid ads aswell as make it easier toget keyword-rich inboundlinks. But you want toconsider balancing theeffects on brand and yourlong-term goals beforedeciding what name touse.
45Location & Top-Level Domain (TLD) SelectionSome regional-based search engines or indexes will only list sites that are registeredin their country code. If your site exclusively or primarily caters to a specificcountry, then you will most likely want to register a domain using the local countrycode.Some search engines will still show your site in regional based search results if yoursite is hosted within that country, has links to and from other local sites, and/or hasyour address and phone number in the page text, but many directories areextremely picky and will only list regional domains.As search progresses, localization of results will become more common. Some ofthe major search engines already give sites a regional ranking boost based uponwhere the site is hosted and the domain extension.If you develop a regional domain (.co.uk for example), I also suggest buying the.com version of your domain, if it is available, and forwarding it to the regionaldomain you registered. By buying the .com version and forwarding it your site, youhelp retain traffic you may have lost by people forgetting to put your regionspecific domain extension in their address bar when they type the website addressdirectly into the address bar.I prefer to use a .com version of a URL over other generic TLDs. People mayassume your site is a .com even if it is .net, .biz, .org, or .info when they go to lookfor it on the web. If all they remember is your domain name, they may type yourdomain name followed by ‘.com’ because ‘.com’ is the default TLD in mostpeople’s heads. If you don’t own the .com version as well, you are giving some ofyour hard-earned traffic to a competitor.If you are running a charity or organizational website a .org may be seen by somepeople as a sign of credibility.It is a good idea to place your business location on your web pages. If you are in acountry where the search technology is primitive, local searchers will frequently addthe country or city name to their searches, and if you have them on your pages youstand to be returned as a relevant result for more searches.Have a Site for Each LanguageMany hucksters sell some translational cross-submission products that arecomplete bunk. Essentially you pay them money to accept your check and nothingmore. Search engines typically do not translate text on the fly when peoplesearch—it is too computationally expensive.If you use automated software to copy your text into a different language, it is likelyto read clumsily and turn people off. You are better off not having the text on theweb if you do not have a person fluent in the language proof the final page copy.
46If you have significant content and target audiences in different languages, thenusually you will want to have a different subdomain or site for each language ormajor market. This will make it easier to get links from the different geographic orethnic communities you are interested in without the losing focus of your site. Italso makes it easy for engines to understand the clear divisions in your site.Subdomains & Local MarketsSubdomains are best to use if you have a small amount of content about eachmarket. If you have significant content for each market, it may make more senseto create a site for each market.If your site is in an exceptionally competitive category and you have many links thatwould be hard to replicate, then you might want to use folders (or possiblysubdomains) on your main site for each language instead of trying to build up thelink popularity of many different sites.U.K. English is much different than English in the United States. Even within thesame language you may need multiple versions to cater to different dialects,customs, and tastes.Subdomains in GeneralIf your main site is a thin e-commerce site, or if it lacks authority, it might makesense to keep most of your authoritative content together with the low authoritycontent. But if your site has great authority, then using a subdomain for some ofyour content should allow you to get more listings in the search results.An advantage of placing some of your content on a subdomain is that if you have astrong brand and the subdomain is also authoritative, then when people search foryour brand some search engines will feature both your domain and the subdomainat the top of the search results, and searchers will have to scroll a long way down tofind competing sites or sites that are critical of your brand.Branding Your Domain NameAny more than about two or three words in a domain name and it becomes lessmemorable. Some of the most memorable websites do a great job of branding bycreating their own word: eBay, Skype, PayPal, Yahoo!, Expedia, Slashdot, Fark,Travelocity, Google…However, most successful businesses are soft innovations; they may not be able toafford the time, money, and effort required to create, brand, and add a new wordto our language. You can create a name that is well-related to something peoplealready know. It is easier to market corn sugar than it is to market fructose.If you are not going to develop a strong brand, then using keywords in yourdomain name may give you a competitive advantage in search results. Having yourkeywords in your domain name can increase click-through rates on search engine
47listings and paid ads as well as make it easier to get keyword rich descriptiveinbound links.If your brand is exceptionally strong and your content quality is second to noneyou still can rank well in search results after enough related resources referenceyour site, even if most references do not mention the keywords you want to rankfor. Google’s search algorithms have moved toward pushing natural authority siteseven if they do not have much relevant anchor text.Branding Your SiteA keyword-rich domain name will make it easy to get inbound link text with yourprimary keywords in them, but don’t forget that your domain name also plays arole in your branding. Your domain name should have your branding in mind as itcan help reinforce the ideals of your brand.On the web there are many different business ideas or business models. If lowcost is your business model, then you will find people who are willing to work forhalf your wage that will slash throats to get by on razor thin margins. It is not away to enjoy life.Someone can always do your job cheaper. For example, Google turned labelingimages into a game. Now thousands of people are labeling images, for free, toimprove Google’s image search relevancy. You can take a look at this process byvisiting http:// images.google.com/imagelabeler/.Branding is one of the most important parts of building any website or web-basedbusiness, and it is what allows you to establish healthy profit margins. EveryMonday, Rob Frankel holds free branding clinics on his website. I recommendgoing to at least one of them and asking a question or two. He also wrote a greatbranding book by the name of The Revenge of Brand X.Leaving the Keyword OutThe site is not seriously launched yet, but a cool domain name for a site aboutsleeping might be something like LikeABaby.com. Using a creative name makes iteasier to build a memorable brand than just focusing on keyword phrases.Branding to an Audience SegmentA guy I met did not have a large marketing budget, but wanted to market a videoclip idea. I thought that it would be a great idea to use the viral nature of blogs tomarket the initial product (i.e., let the bloggers market the product for us by word-of-mouth, because word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire). I came up with the nameBlogFlix.net. The site later went under after some technical errors, but within afew months of being finished, it was featured on popular sites such as Smart Mobs.
48The Right Domain NameI either make my domain names define themselves exactly or I think of a creativeway to state its purpose. Your best bet is to think of a name that is an extension ofwho you are.A short and easy to remember URL is friendly to word-of-mouth marketing.Would you feel better referring a friend to seobook.com or seo-search-engine-optimization-marketing-e-book-book.com? Which would be easier to rememberand say? If you make a message hard to spread, then it will probably spread at aslower rate.Buying Multiple NamesOften times it is worth it to buy multiple domain names, even if you do not usethem all. By securing multiple domain names you can decide to use some of yoursecondary domains to cover similar thematically-related topics AND preventcompetitors from purchasing the name.Within six months of my starting the SEOBook.com website, someone wasalready spamming me trying to sell me SEOBooks.com. I should have spent theadditional $8 to register that domain from the start. You also may want to buy ageneric name and the domain name that matches your business, and direct themboth to the same location.Example of Breaking Ideas Down into Niche SitesI do not recommend buying multiple domain names exclusively for deceptivepractices. Many of my sites are about SEO, but you can break ideas down to theircore and make useful sites in less competitive markets.For example, one site I own is Search-Marketing.info. This site is similar to thecontents of this e-book, although the site is somewhat dated. That site is not awell-branded name. I had many concepts on that site that later were extracted andmade into their own sites:" I had a blog at Search-Marketing.info; the blog was not successful. Imoved the blog from that site to SeoBook.com, and it has likely becomeone of the top half dozen most popular blogs in the SEO industry." I had a directory list on Search-Marketing.info. I decided to turn that listinto a directory of directories, and created that idea atDirectoryArchives.com." I listed some bad SEO practices on my Search-Marketing.info; I decided toturn that idea into BlackHatSEO.com.
49Each of the last three sites occasionally spikes in popularity and helps give me amulti-brand approach. I would not be nearly as successful if I kept all of thoseideas inside my first site.When you spin out micro domains, they allow you to try to be humorous ordifferent without necessarily having as much impact on your root brand as if yousaid and did the same things on your main business site.There are also tactical business reasons for using multiple sites. For example, ifwhat you are doing might get you sued, it may make sense to put it on a non-income-generating site to try to make it easier to get free legal help if the lawsuit isbogus.Generic Names versus Unique NamesSome businesses will require brand development to become successful. Being abranded SEO makes it far easier to charge a fair rate for my services than if I wasunbranded. My original website (http://www.search-marketing.info) is really a weakbrand and was a huge mistake.I like the idea of creating things that I think add long-term value to the web, so Iusually opt for branded names over generic names.There is more than one way to skin a cat, and the same idea can be said for pickinga domain name. If you aim to extract long-term profits and want to make the siteyou are working on become your career, then you want to pick a name that is notoverly generic.Before you pick a name or start building sites, you should decide what yourgoals are for the site. If you are unsure what type of site you want to make orwhy you want to make it, you may want to participate in web communities to findproblems that need solutions and create a personal site until you find what youwant to do.Creating a Topical Web site NetworkNote: This is an advanced SEO technique most webmasters do not need to do.With how many pages there are on the web, quality will usually win over quantity.With that being said, sometimes it will make sense to have multiple, similarwebsites covering slightly different topics. Doing this can help you create topicallyauthoritative inbound links to different sites in your network and give you a multi-branded approach to marketing.However, you want to make sure your sites are all different and unique. If yoursites are extremely similar, then your sites may receive a spam penalty or have thenepotistic link popularity discounted. Even worse is that if you interlink them all,then all of your sites could get penalized at the same time.
50Those using strong brands and good ideas can usually do well without creating atopical network. If you create a topical network expressly to deceive searchengines, then you are taking a risk and your sites may get removed from the searchindexes. In addition, some search engine relevancy algorithms, such as Google’scurrent algorithm, tend to favor one authoritative domain over using many smallersimilar domains.Many of the more aggressive techniques are used by people who create crash-andburn-domain names. They use a site until it gets penalized and then use a new one.They actually start building up multiple other sites and networks before the firsteven gets penalized. If your brand and domain name are important to you, thenmake sure you use caution to protect them.How you wrap/package/sell the content is important. Many blog networks seemto be able to get away with murder right now because they are called a blognetwork. Other publishers that have tried similar network approaches have gotbanned for it. Over time, how blogs are treated may change though, and any wayyou slice it, you still need to get links from outside your network.Keep the following in mind when developing a website network:" Make unique sites. Make sure each site is unique enough that it canstand on its own merit." Only cross link the sites where it is logical. Blogs being part of a blognetwork might be considered legitimate cross-linking if it does not looklike it was primarily done to spam the engines." Use various hosts. This way, if any of your sites go down, not all of yoursites are down. Also, some search algorithms can devalue links that comefrom sites hosted on the same C block IP address. Some hosts alsoprovide random C block IP addresses for each of your sites for a ratherreasonable price on a single account." Get inbound links from external sources. Register your sites withdirectories and other topical sites to make sure you have plenty ofinbound links into your link network. This will help prevent your sitesfrom looking like an isolated island or link farm." Use various link sources. Each of your sites should have manyunique link sources outside of your network." Do not interlink hundreds of domains together unless you areactively trying to get penalized." If you are creating and interlinking sites exclusively for the reason tomanipulate search results, then you stand a good chance to eventuallybe penalized.
51" You probably do not want to use the same WHOIS data on a largenumber of sites if the sites are made with deceptive intent.Additionally, you may want to register sites at a variety of registrars sothat there is no discernible pattern. If you register a ton of yourdomains via proxy and cross link them, that too can look somewhatsuspicious.Registering DomainsI usually register my domains at http://www.GoDaddy.com because they havereasonable prices. Please note that GoDaddy has a shady policy of holdingdomains hostage if they suspect you of using the domain to spam. It has not hitme yet, but many of the more aggressive search marketers recommendMoniker.com.If you know you want to stick with a domain name for an extended period of time,it makes sense to register the domain for a number of years.Many low-quality crash-and-burn type sites are not registered for a number ofyears, so some search systems may give a small amount of additional trust todomain names that are registered through many years.Domain Registration versus HostingI like to keep hosting and registration separate.Whenever you register a domain, make sure you register it at an ICANNaccredited registrar. Whenever you host a domain use a reliable host. It isusually a bad idea to cross the two.When people register a site at a host, it may be hard to renew registration if youwant to change hosting providers. Buy hosting from a host and not from aregistrar. Many registrars do not have good technical support and do not placeenough value on their hosted clients either.HostingProblems With Bad HostingThere are a ton of unreliable hosts on the web. Hosting is one thing I recommendspending good money on. If your site goes down, you may lose customers, andsearch engines may not be able to index your site.Some extremely low-quality hosts will place hundreds or thousands of domains ona single IP address on a single server. This may cause system lag and overload theserver.
52Some hosts will not let you change some of your files or the configurations thatyou need to change when running your site. If you run into those sorts ofproblems, then it may be best to change hosting providers.Less Common Hosting ProblemsIt is not common, but some hosts may be configured incorrectly with the wrongclock time or may be sending DNS errors that prevent your site from beingindexed. You can use a server header checker to ensure that your clock time is notway off (like months or years), that your home page provides a 200 code, and thatnon-existent pages provide a 404 error code.You also can use Web Bug or the Firefox Live HTTP Headers extension to checkyour HTTP headers. See the references section at the end of this chapter for a listof online tools.Some hosts also improperly configure servers or place spammy subdomains onsites. Be careful if you use a host like iPowerWeb, as some of their clients noticedspammy subdomains that would appear out of nowhere. Search engines maypenalize your site for this sort of activity. That is yet another reason to go with areputable host.Recommended HostsMost of my good sites are hosted by Dreamhost or Pair. Both have provided mewith reliable hosting and responsive customer service. Dreamhost allows you tohost unlimited domains on a single account for $7.95 a month. Pair costs a bitmore for their developer account, but it allows you to host sites on different IPaddresses, and I have NEVER had any issues with Pair.Dedicated versus Shared HostingI have found shared hosting to work well for me, although some peoplerecommend using dedicated hosting (which is typically far more expensive).Shared hosting places many domain names on the same IP address and sameserver, whereas dedicated servers allow you to place just your stuff on a server.Search engines such as Google usually place spam penalties on domain names, notIP addresses. Although it does happen, rarely does a hosting network getpenalized. I believe the SearchKing network is one example where a whole hostingnetwork got penalized, but this is extremely rare.If you are going to be making major investments into the web, then it may beworth it to buy a reliable dedicated server. Off the start, I could not afford one so Iused shared hosting. As my business model progressed, and my traffic increased, Ilater bought a dedicated host for SEOBook.com. Most of my other sites are stillhosted on shared hosting accounts.Free Hosting
53I do not recommend free hosting. With the plague of garbage on the web manypeople may not be willing to link to sites that reside on a free host. Free hostsusually use your content to build link popularity or put some ugly banners on yoursite, which ruin the page flow and make it look exceptionally unprofessional.A commercially-oriented website needs to show significantly greater quality for meto want to link to it if it resides on a free host.I have seen some blogs that were hosted at Blogspot (Blogger’s free host) do allright, but that exception is based on the fact that blogs are generally more personalin nature and not so commercially driven. Even those blogs would probably bebetter off if they used a more feature-rich blogging engine. Plus, if they ever wantto move their site, it is hard to consolidate the link popularity they built up if allthose links point at a Blogspot location.If you create a subdomain from a free site and eventually want to move your site, itmay be hard to move some of that link popularity, and aged domain trust youdeveloped, to the new location.Cheap HostingThere are many risks with bad, cheap hosting, but decent, cheap hosting ofsecondary type sites can help diversify your business model and lessen the risk ifyour main site goes down. One cheap host I have used is 3.75 hosting.Once I renewed my credit card and forgot to give them my changed credit carddetails and my sites immediately went down without warning. That is just oneexample of the type of things you can expect from cheap hosting providers.If you are unsure how reliable your host is, you may want to use a tracking servicesuch as Internet Seer.Host in Your CountryMany major search engines give sites a relevancy boost if they are hosted in thesame location as the local search market. In some locations, local hosting may notbe economical, but if you are promoting a site primarily geared toward the U.K.,you would want to host that site in the U.K.Interactive ElementsLiteratureFrankel, Rob. Free branding clinic.(http://frankelbiz.com/conf/CNFcalendar.php?m=conf)---. The Revenge of Brand X. (http://www.revengeofbrandx.com/)
54Grehan, Mike. Search Engine Marketing, 2/e.(http://www.search-engine-book.co.uk/)Salton, Gerard. A Theory of Indexing. New York: Society forIndustrial & Applied Mathematics, 1987.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0898710154/)Wall, Aaron. “The Effect of Domain Name on Anchor Text.” Search-Marketing Info. 21 May 2004. Accessed 26 December 2004.(http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/domain-name.htm)Resources$3.75 hosting (http://www.3.75-hosting.com)Dreamhost hosting (http://www.dreamhost.com)Firefox live http headers extension(http://livehttpheaders.mozdev.org/)GoDaddy domain registrar (http://www.godaddy.com)Google Image Labeler (http://images.google.com/imagelabeler/)ICANN domain registration information (http://www.icann.org/)Internet Hosting Report (http://www.internet-hosting-report.com/)Internet Seer: host tracking (http://www.internetseer.com/)Moniker domain registrar (http://www.moniker.com)Pair (http://www.pair.com)Porter Stemming Algorithm(http://www.tartarus.org/~martin/PorterStemmer/)Server Header Checker(http://www.seoconsultants.com/tools/headers.asp)Web Bug (http://www.cyberspyder.com/webbug.html)WordNet: a lexical database (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/)Some Notes" Why do you want to build your website? Why should people buy off yoursite and not Salesman Steve’s Super Site? What makes you different?" Who is your target audience?" Is your goal to play cat and mouse with advancing search engines toextract quick profits, or are you investing for the long term? Neither model
55is wrong—it just makes sense to chose one or the other and actaccordingly. Sites stuck somewhere in the middle will likely performpoorly. Whatever you do, do it well." List five websites you think are amazing and/or you visit daily? Why arethey amazing? Why do you visit them often?" Create five different potential domain names. Make at least one of themfunny. Make at least one of them serious. Tell them to a half dozen peopleand see which ones are the most memorable. You will get more honestfeedback if the people do not know you well." If available buy the domain name with your name in it. As you change youcan change this site to be whatever you want.
56General Internet TopicsThere is much more work to creating a successful web-based business than justSEO. Focusing exclusively on SEO is a bad call. Most sites will become moresuccessful from using SEO techniques, but most sites will not become successfulbased exclusively on SEO.This chapter is dedicated to some other web tips I have learned from my personalexperiences and lists many of the books people recommended which I foundhelpful.Learning Your SubjectQuantity versus QualityMost Internet Businesses FailMany people are in a rush to build thinking they are ready to cash in on the nextgold mine. A ton of money changes hands on the Internet, yet most Internetbusinesses fail. Why? People think they can make something rather large that ispretty good. Logic such as “If I can make a dollar a day off each page and have200 pages, I would not need to work.”The low cost of content creation can lead to poor document quality. If you sayone incorrect thing, you may lose the trust of a prospective customer—sometimesfor life.Making information that just turns out to be clutter rarely makes for a long-term,successful website. If you don’t have passion for what you do, it is much harder tobe successful in a completely open environment, especially if workers who have alower living cost in third world countries can easily duplicate your work.Long-Term Investment StrategyEditor and MarketWatch correspondent Bambi Francisco asked Mike Moritz ofSequoia Capital how he chooses what companies to invest in. He replied, “It’s theidea that the founders are doing something that they think is useful for themselves,Chapter3Good is bad on the web.To be successful youshould do something thathas not been done before,or do it in a way that isbetter than what anyoneelse is doing.
57And, then, eventually perhaps, coincidentally, perhaps accidentally, they discoverthat the product or service that they have built because they wanted to usesomething like this is that of great interest to lots of other people.”If you create something you enjoy that is exceptionally useful, you stand a goodchance of being successful.Cutting Through ClutterNumerous people have asked me to promote their ‘clutter’ sites. The correctanswer has been no, no, and no. The whole reason search has become such asuccessful market is because it helps people cut through the clutter.Each page on a website already has billions of alternatives a click or two away.Each page is important. The most important thing to do is focus on a specificniche—something you are truly interested in.Be UsefulMany successful websites are successful because they are syndicated. There aremany ways you can work to get your site syndicated, but an often overlooked ‘trick’is to simply be the most useful site in your niche.Amazon is successful because they built features that make it more useful thanmost other shopping sites. They added value to their product or service byallowing user feedback, related suggestions, used book sales, and the “so you wantto” collection guides to their pages.Own a NicheChartreuse explained his theory on participating in a niche market:You can’t create a site about what’s going on in the plastic industry unlessyou learn how they think. You gotta pick up some trade papers. Talk tosome people inside. So that when you do create you will be authentic andloved. So that you get it. You can’t be ____ing pedestrian and set up a siteand hope they will come. They may visit but they won’t come back. And ifthey don’t come back you have lost.Bear Sterns posted research titled Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily)Content are King in Entertainment, which stated that “Value of aggregation and brandsincreases with exponential increase in content choice.” If you lead a market, thesearch engines and other aggregators need you. If you are just one of manyparticipants in a field, shifting relevancy algorithms and increasing competition willmarginalize your earning potential unless you develop a strong market leadingbrand.Be Trustworthy
59search engines so much. It also reinforces the value of the best channels in amarketplace.The solution to the information overload problem is to be so remarkable andinteresting that you capture the attention of the audience. RSS and newsreaders(such as Bloglines, Google Reader, and FeedDemon) make it easy for people tosubscribe to select news channels or websites while blocking out redundant oruseless noise.If you cover a news topic that is saturated, you may want to use a news reader tohelp you organize your news and get the scoop on the latest news as it happens.The people who are subscribing to RSS feeds are also the most likely to be peoplewho comment on the contents of those sites, and write other sites that can link atyour site. If you can figure out a way to get those people to desire to give you theirattention, you quickly and cheaply reach the most influential voices.If you did not own your site, is there any reason you would want to visit itmultiple times each week? If you figure out how to make that answer “yes,”then you are ahead of over 95% of competing webmasters.In most industries, many people will fail, or barely get by, while a few successfulvoices make themselves heard above the rest. Those people who gain manysubscribers and have other people talking about them will be successful.Competitive markets are largely a game of mindshare. Ultimately, search enginesfollow people.Controlling Costs and Leveraging ExposureIf you have a high attention portion of your site that is hard to monetize you canstill leverage the value and trust associated with that section of your site withoutoffending your regular readers.Some search algorithms heavily weigh domain related authority scores. If you findyourself in a position of great authority, but fear losing your market position byplacing too many ads or too much lower quality content in your main channel, thenyou can create a static part of the site of lower quality that is more aggressivelymonetized while still keeping your high authority channel noise free. Some contentmanagement systems also allow you to change page layouts based on content age,such that you can monetize archive content more aggressively than new content.Tagging Search ResultsBoth Yahoo! and Google allow users to sign into accounts and search. Searcherscan also tag, or label, the results. Readers might tag my site using seo, search, or seoblog.Here are examples of tags people use to describe my site:
60I do not believe the tagsare being heavily usedto influence searchrelevancy algorithms,but eventually they may carry some weight. And many of the people who use tagsalso publish websites where they may link to some of the items they tagged.As the user search history builds and search engines can cross-compare searchhistories between users, the tag data may be used to help understand what conceptsand other documents a particular document is related to. For example:" When people tag or link to documents on their own, they are likely touse a variety of terms to describe a document. This type of somewhatrandom and sloppy information organization is known as a folksonomy." If searchers tag my site SEO or Internet marketing then search enginesmay believe my site is about those topics." If the same users frequently tag SearchEngineWatch.com andSeoBook.com, then a search engine may think that the two websitesare related." Yahoo! My Web allows you to share what sites you are tagging withyour friends." Google created a program called Google Co-op that allows groups ofpeople to create a topical search engine by tagging relevant sites.Google users can then subscribe to allow those results to appear intheir Google search results." Yahoo! and Google both have feed readers that they can use to seehow popular your site is and how frequently readers visit it." If my site ranks well in search results and many users never click on thelisting, search engines may want to demote my site. If most peoplewho click on my listing immediately click the back button, searchengines may want to demote my site or flag it for human review." Search engines will be able to cross-compare user acceptance data (asdescribed in the point above), what sites are being tagged, how thosesites are being tagged, and linkage data to determine if the popularityof a site is natural or if it is being manipulated by human intervention." Google bought YouTube for 1.65 billion dollars, and also owns manyother services (AdSense, Google Analytics, Google Toolbar, etc.) thatallow them to collect web usage data. As Google hosts more of theweb’s content they will be able to refine their relevancy algorithms byincorporating more usage data into their algorithms." If you can think of a way to create a site that people interested in yourtopic would want to tag, then you will be better off than 95% of yourcompetition." Tagging somewhat relates to link building. Much later on in the bookI cover link building in depth.
61Changing Your SiteMy Trial & ErrorI was a “hack-and-go” sort of person off the start. I have re-made thousands ofweb pages, most of them by inefficient means. Some of my worst mistakes are:using frames, trying to become an affiliate of over 1,000 websites, free moneyscams, and generally creating garbage without learning about the web.Business & ChangeThe Internet is a highly responsive, trackable medium. You should WANT tochange to evaluate consumer response. Successful businesses evolve. Successfulentrepreneurs keep learning. Few sites stay on top forever by being stagnant. It’shard to think of change before you even start building your site, but right now Ihave thousands of pages that are reminding me of changes I still need to make.Creating a Site DesignSeth Godin offered me some great advice for site design. He said, “The best wayto make a web page is to steal an outlay idea from another website that is not directlycompeting with you.” When you go to make your first web page, do so as a sketch.After you have a good idea (which is at least slightly different than the site you gotyour idea from), recreate your home page as a picture in an editor such as AdobePhotoshop. From there you can pay a design firm to create your page, or create ityourself using a program such as Macromedia Dreamweaver.Software such as Site Grinder and some companies like PSD2HTML andXHTMLized convert Photoshop images to websites for affordable rates.If you do not mind using an existing template, OSWD.org is a website that has abunch of free web designs you can chose from. Many content managementsystems, such as blogs, also have free template galleries. You can start with one ofthe designs and modify it to make it look unique.Crafting Easy Site Wide ChangesCascading Style Sheets (CSS)How do you make it easy to change your site? One simple solution is to usecascading style sheets to control the display of your information. When the Webwas created, the idea was to keep layout and information separate from oneanother. Using external style sheets allows you to change virtually every aspect ofyour site by making changes to one file. To do this, put the layout in a sheet called‘yourchosenfilename.css’ and reference it in your other web pages. A code similarto the following would go in the head section of your pages.
62<link href="/style.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">For an example of how powerful CSS is, take a look at the CSS house. A couple ofthe more popular resources on the web about cascading style sheets are the CSSZen Garden and W3 school’s CSS tutorial page. You may also want to view theofficial W3C CSS guidance page.Effects of Change on BrandingOn a daily, weekly, or monthly basis you can choose to change your font type,layout, colors…just about anything. You can do it in minutes and track the results.Some branding experts, however, such as Rob Frankel, believe that changing toofrequently could hurt your brand.Make sure you have a distinct idea of why and how you want to change before youstart altering things. If you realize many things are completely broken, then acomplete makeover might be in order, but typically it is best to change and testonly one thing at a time so you know the exact effects of any change.How CSS Saves TimeYou can link each page of your site to an external style sheet to control the display.Many of the repetitive changes that would be made on every page can be donesimply by changing one file. This may not seem like a big deal while creating pagefive or six, but if your site has 200 pages you will be glad that you used CSS!CSS are not necessary for smaller sites, but are a great idea if you are building alarge content-based site. They also can help to improve the content-to-code ratio.Server Side Includes (SSI)Server Side Includes is an Apache server technology that allows you to includepages or parts of a page within another page without the negative side effects ofusing a framed-based navigation system. To include another file inside of a page,include the following code where you want the included page to appear.<!--#include virtual="/includedfile.htm" -->The use of SSI for common elements, such as navigation or advertisements, workwell to allow you to control your entire site by making simple changes to a singlefile. Between CSS and SSI, you can save literally hundreds or thousands of hoursin your site design or re-design.SSI also lets you include the date last modified or current date in the page. This isoften how many of those generic one page sites have the current date in their salesletters.On my Search Marketing Info site (Search-Marketing.info), I use SSI for the pagefooter, navigational tabs, local left column navigation, and right-side page ads.Using CSS and SSI ordynamic programminglanguages is not necessaryif you aim to have a smallWeb site. If you aremaking a large site, thesetechnologies can save youmany hours in sitemaintenance.
63You can learn more about SSI by viewing the Apache SSI Tutorial located athttp://httpd.apache.org/docs/1.3/howto/ssi.html.SSI Without Breaking File PathsWebmasters often start out with a smaller site and later decide that they shouldstart using SSI or a dynamic content management system. To use SSI, manypeople change their file paths from .html or .htm to .shtml or .shtm. The problemwith doing this is that it can break inbound links. You can get around this bymodifying your .htaccess file.To learn more about .htaccess files, view the Comprehensive Guide to .htaccess at:http://www.wsabstract.com/howto/htaccess.shtml.Content Management Systems (CMS)Another technique to control the look and design of a site is to use a contentmanagement system. There are many dynamic languages people use such as PHP,ASP, and ColdFusion. However, most people do not need an expensive contentmanagement system. Before you invest heavily in a content management systemor design, you should know what the goals of the website are. Make sure anycontent management system you would consider using produces search-engine-friendly pages. (More about making a site search engine friendly later.)Blogs as Content Management SystemsI organize many content sites with weblog programs such as WordPress andMovable Type. Movable Type costs $199 (as of writing this) for a commerciallicense and provides many of the features of expensive content managementsystems. Movable Type also offers a free one-month trial of their web-basedsoftware by the name of TypePad. If you like TypePad, you can host your blogthere for a low monthly fee. Blogger, owned by Google, is a 100% free bloggingsoftware platform that is rather limited on the feature front. WordPress is free adownloadable software program that is easy to install.If you want to give blogging a try, I suggest going to Blogger.com and signing upfor a free account. If your site is personal in nature or you like the blog contentmanagement system, you may not even need to pay for design beyond a site logo.If you are serious about using a blog as part of a business, I would recommendusing WordPress or Movable Type.I wrote a couple articles on why I think using blog software is often an outstandingidea for both search engine placement and ease of site design. You can find themat http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/articles.htm#blogs..Professional Looking DesignIt is worth it to pay someone to make a professional looking design for your site. Itis very affordable easy to use a default blog template and pay a logo designer $50-Writing an interesting blogensures that you havefresh content available,which keeps trafficcoming back to your site.In addition, blog softwarecan be used as anexceptionally cheapcontent managementsystem.
64$200 to design a logo for you. My original SEO Book site design was not overlysimplistic because I am a minimalist; it was overly simplistic because I am a baddesigner. For the first two years it was a default Movable Type template with a $99logo at the top. I eventually paid a few thousand dollars to get a new, crisp, cleandesign.It is very easy to find shoddy logo design, but there are some good ones. RecentlyI purchased logos from The Logo Company for $150 each. A few times I havebeen disappointed, but some of their logos came out better than expected. MySEO Book logo was created by EZY Logo, a now defunct company that had greatproduct but terrible customer support. If you need an exceptionally cheap logoyou may want to run a contest at a forum or try to buy a logo from a site likeElance.I purchased AAA logo design software for $50. I think it is fun to play with, but ifyou are not graphically inclined, you probably will want to pay someone else todesign your logo. Buying a good original logo is an exceptionally cheap one-timeinvestment.Professional Looking Design (Part 2)Making a site accessible, usable, and professional looking might cost you $10,000or more. If you are low on funds, it might make more sense to spend that moneyon brand building and marketing, but if you want designers and the like to link atyour site it is much easier to get links if your site looks professional.Off the start I did not believe that coding errors or design mattered that much, butif you want technical sites to link to you, then your site has to pass the sniff test.That consideration is much more important if you write a tech blog than if you runa fairly static e-commerce site.CopywritingHumans do the BuyingInevitably, it will be human eyes that see your web page. For example, if my firstsix chapters had no good advice, you would not read chapter seven.I am unaware of any automated buying-bots that surf the web just to buy things.(There are, however, automated clicking agents that defraud people, and the peoplewho create them should be shot.)Copywriting BooksHow do you write for human eyes? I recommend investing in a copywriting book.Some of the books I have read are Net Words by Nick Usborne, The OnlineCopywriter’s Handbook by Bob Bly, and Persuasive Online Copywriting by BryanEisenberg. Of the three, I most highly recommend the third; Persuasive OnlineWhen you create yourpages, make sure they readwell to people. You arentwriting them for robots.You will need good copyto have a decentconversion rate and toencourage natural linkingto your site.
65Copywriting contains a ton of information packed into small convenient chapters,which works out well if you ever need to look at the information again.Copywriting BibleThe above books are a great introduction to copywriting type books, but if you arelooking for thorough copywriting and advertising advice, I could recommend nobetter book than Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. It is like an encyclopediaof advertising knowledge from one of the world’s best copywriters. It is a bit datedand speaks primarily of print ads, but if you are primarily writing sales copy, this is agreat book to read.The above books will also enlighten you with coverage of subjects such as the salesprocess and different personality types.Horrible CopywritingWe here at XYZ Corporation know what it means to besuccessful. In fact, sometimes we forget that at one point along, long, long time ago we weren’t the premiereinformation distribution technology enhancement resourceagency facilitator. Times have changed though, and we havetransfused our corporate mission to account for thediscrepancies in the post-modern publishing phenomenon.We are…us…greatest…best…us, us, us…selfish, etc.Basics of Online Copywriting" Use varying style. Lose the corporate speak." Be yourself." Make it a conversation." Make your point up front." Don’t use jargon." Use shorter text, or, as E.B. White would say, “omit needless words.”" Break up text using headers, sub headers, bulleted lists, and other textbreaking devices." Stress benefits before features (unless it is a tech-heavy product).An Audience of OneIt is a great idea to sell information. If your copy can connect with a person andget them to feel as though they are working with a person instead of a screen, thesale process is much easier. You do not know who is on the other end of thecomputer.People are generally distrusting toward the unknown. If site visitors sense a personis writing just for them, they will not want to click away.
66Include a Call to ActionMany beautiful websites have no call to action. It is a great idea to guide the user.Some people use flashing text, excessive red coloring or highlighting, or otherover-the-top techniques that distract the user away from what you want them todo.Sales pages may want to play off of the emotions certain colors bring out, but withinformational or general product pages, the focus should be on ease of use. Irecommend avoiding using random misplaced bright colors on most web pages;instead, make it obvious what action you want the user to take.The one exceptionally large blue button on the page…The one that is centered inline in the content area…that’s it, that’s what I want youto do. Users should be able to do the action you want them to without eventhinking! Both The Big Red Fez by Seth Godin and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krugare books largely devoted to this simple concept.Page Layout ErrorEven in you keep the sales copy exactly the same, trying a slightly different pagelayout can result in a tremendous increase in profitability.For example, when I first started the SEO Book site, I only promoted this e-bookoff to the side. I switched to promoting this e-book on every page right below thepage content posts and overnight the sales more than tripled.Another good example of how page layout can really make a difference in a webcampaign is Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. During Howard Dean’s 2004presidential campaign, they used their blog to cast a vote on whether or not theircampaign should accept matching funds. After people voted, they were sent to alanding page. The first day saw 100,000 voters and raised $248,000.They looked at the vote return landing page and noticed that the donate buttonwas at the bottom of the page. They moved it to the top of the page. On thesecond day, another 100,000 people voted, but they raised $4,500,000.Make it FlowSmall sentences and paragraphs with common words make writing flow easily. Inaddition, you can make the text easy on the eyes by setting a line height (the area ofa line of text and the space above or below it) to at least 120% of the text height,and by using the maximum contrast between your text and background.Since you have no sales person on your site, the text is the sales person. It needs toanswer questions and arouse appeal toward your products.
67Sell UpwardMcDonald’s asks, “would you like fries with that?” Most major corporations knowit is easier to sell again to a person than it is to find a new prospect. After a personcontacts you or orders something, send them to a thank you page.Give them small free gifts, strengthen their bond with you, make them feel goodabout their decision, or try to sell them something else. It does not need to bring inmoney to be a gain. If they subscribe to your mailing list, you have increased yourexposure FREE. Consider giving them options to read other journals that crosspromote you.Or, you could reference affiliated companies. These links can hold discounts thatappear as gifts, when in actuality, they make you money. I recently purchased inkcartridges and got 5% off for adding their site to my favorites list. It is muchcheaper to give me 5% off than to try to find me again later. The possibilities areendless.Focus on the UserThe user focus must be on benefits offered to them. Writing the word you insteadof we is a must. The simpler and easier it is for users to see benefits from anaction, the better off they are and the more conversions you make.Some techies might like features, but to general audiences it is usually best to rankyour priorities in the following manner:1. Audience2. Benefits3. Features (if you are selling to a techie audience they may want thefeatures before the benefits).Make it a ConversationAll the above tips pale in comparison to the following tip:" Write in a conversational tone, as a person, not a company.Fake fluffery does not go well on the web. People can smell it a mile away. Sincethe Web started as a non-commercial entity, there are certain etiquettes (ornetiquettes) that dictate how we should act. When we go outside these basic ideas,we not only avoid conversion, but also are likely to offend our readers.Many of the people who have bought this e-book told me they bought it because Isounded honest and real. Some of my blog posts are somewhat random, personal,or humorous, and some people like that.
68GapingVoid.com is a weblog (some might find offensive for cursing and beingblunt), but it talks about creating smarter conversations, and I find his cartoons andcopy refreshing for their bluntness.You can get away without being the best copywriter if you are honest.Rapid Feedback LoopsBlogs and websites such as Epinions and Planet Feedback make it easy forcustomers to see what others have to say about you. Google Groups, Yahoo!Groups, and MSN Groups are additional havens for complaints. A large portionof the value of the Amazon experience is user reviews and the “X peoplerecommended blah instead of this” area. People have told me they have boughtmy book due to it being mentioned on book lists on Amazon.Just be honest. If you are not the best, work to improve! Work from yourstrengths and focus on something you are the best at. You should also occasionallylook and see what others have to say about your service by checking search results.If you solve problems and turn complainers into happy customers, you lower yourmarketing costs.Customer interaction should be personal, not corporate-speak driven. Sometimesyou will fall short (as I have many times), but honesty goes a long way. If you findyour way into the conversation and are human about it, you curb the rants and mayeven spur on a few people who believe in you. An amazing book on how marketsare conversations is called The ClueTrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, RickLevine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger (ClueTrain is available free online).Quality ContentLots of people will tell you to create lots of quality content without ever giving alegitimate definition of what quality content is. The web is a big social network,and the trick is to get your messages to spread further and faster than yourcompetitors. Usually, creating more pages does not do this as well as creating abetter idea.The Web was designed to save people time or give away useful information. Thecloser you can align a portion of your business model or website with thoseconcepts, the better chance you have at achieving extreme success.While many SEOs hold back their secrets so they can profit from them, I give thise-book free to charities and post most of what I learn to my blog. I not only helppeople, but my syndicated network grows. I have been found by prospectivecustomers from word-of-mouth in forums I have never heard of. One day I got athank you e-mail from a person from a religious forum and about ten minutes latergot a thank you from a person from a pornography forum.What is Quality Content?
69Quality content is conceptually unique content that people would want to read andlink at. If you want people to pay attention to you it is important that your createcontent that is conceptually unique. The following article by Sugarrae explores thistopic more in depth:http://www.sugarrae.com/permalink/when-unique-content-is-not-unique/Writing Ideas to SpreadRather than being so focused on search that you try to match keywords, you canalso market certain ideas with the intent to spread. By writing a headline that isjuicy, intriguing, or controversial, you stand a much better idea of seeing that ideaspread. Search engines follow people. If you spread good ideas then searchengines will trust you.Brian Clark’s CopyBlogger offers great headline tips in his post titled “MagneticHeadlines” at http://www.copyblogger.com/magnetic-headlines/.Multiple Customer TypesI need some people to want to buy my e-book. “Buy my stuff” is not an easymessage to spread though. I also need other people to link to my site. Just like Ineed to sell my e-book to have a business model, I also need to give others areason why they would want to link to my site because that will market my book.Working From Your StrengthsI am typically a bit goofy in the things I say or do. It is why I have created manyfunny or fun-type websites. It is far easier to be myself than to pull off some sortof act.I am not the best copywriter, and I do not write the best sales letter pages. If youread the 33 Days to Online Profits e-book that comes as a bonus, it will include lots ofcontent about copywriting. Many of the links are not worth buying from for mostpeople. Much of his information in his report about search engines is inadequateor incorrect.However, I still note this document because it shows some copywriting techniquesthat may be helpful. You only need to be great at one thing to be extremelysuccessful on the web. Yanik Silver is good at selling people stuff with compellingcopywriting. I do not suggest that you buy most of the stuff he links to in 33 Daysto Online Profits, but I do recommend you glance at how he writes copy.Write Content to Target the Ideal ProspectWhen you write content, you do not want to create something that makeseveryone happy. You want to write to the ideal target customer because yourwriting will have the greatest effect on the people you are trying to target.
70If you write too broadly, or try to make too many people happy, then your idealprospects will not convert as well, as they may become disinterested or offended byattempts to write to less-targeted prospects. The lower quality prospects are goingto convert poorly no matter what you do.The reason many hyper-focused sales letters are still a mile long is because thepeople who are most interested in the topic are more inclined to want to keepreading.I did SEO for a customer where we increased his monthly sales from $3,000 toaround $12,000. I then tuned his page copy for his ideal client. With the samemarketing spend and same rankings, we increased his sales from $12,000 to over$40,000. Even better yet, he was making greater profit from fewer customers bytargeting the larger spenders.Sales LettersSome websites are exceptionally transparent in that you can tell they are all aboutmaking as much money as possible. By reading through the sales letters of variouswritten-to-sell websites, you can see some of the tricks they use to sell.A hard sell does not make sense for all people (and may offend some of yourcustomers), but I could probably increase my income by about 50% if my salesletter was harder selling. Sometimes it is a bit hard to balance profitability andbeing easy to link to.Clarity is KeyMany organizations aim to manipulate language to make it lose its meaning. If youare small, one of the biggest advantages you have over competitors is that you canput yourself into your brand and ensure that your writing is clear and easy tounderstand. Since you have fewer stakeholders, it is easier for your writing to moreclearly represent your thoughts.UsabilityReal Life ExampleMemorial Day weekend of 2003. I decided to take a risk. I drove my car until thegas was just about gone. The engine was sputtering when I pulled off at a gasstation near no others and went to fill up. I pulled up to the first pump and it had a“credit cards do not work” sign on it.I went in to pay cash and the cashier explained it was full service. There was noservice man out there. I got rather angry seeing the long line of cars waiting to usethe few pumps that worked.
71I drove off to find another gas station. I then realized there were no other close gasstations. I went back. I almost got into a wreck on my way back to the gas station.Now I was enraged.I arrived at the gas station and waited in line again. The car in front of me wouldnot back up to let the person who just finished pumping, out. I had to wait untilthe van on the other side was done. I then had to wait for the guy who would notmove to finish.Negative AdvertisingI was finally ready to pump my gas. I tried to use my credit card, but after about aminute of processing, a warning flashed up at me: “Please See Cashier…SystemDown.” On the pump it stated “pump then pay.” So I tried to pump. It did notwork.I went inside and asked the cashier what was up. While snacking on his food hesaid, “(crunch) Sorry, I had not got around to turning your pump on yet.” Mindyou it said pump THEN pay. I had been trying for a few minutes at this point.I went back outside and pumped my gas. I left vowing never again to visit that gasstation. It was a Mobile in Mystic, Connecticut (just off the interstate), and I stillvividly remember the sign in my head as well as the cashier who was snacking whilehe should have authorized my pump.If That Gas Station was a Web siteWhat was the point of that tangent about a gas station? It took longer to tell thestory than it will take to make my point. I was reading Designing Web Usability byJakob Nielsen about the same time I had that bad day, and this nugget of truthcame to me—there is no page that is so important that I cannot go elsewhere. Ifthat gas station was a website, I would have left.Many people find your website through search engines. Other sites may link toyour inner pages. There is no way to tell where traffic will come from.I never see the shopping cart on many sites because they make it a challenge just toget there. I have abandoned many shopping carts. Most websites have miserableusability. I must admit some of my sites needs some work in this area too…it isone of the most neglected aspects of web design.Web ExampleThis comes from a usability/design example story found on page 69 of Taking YourTalent to the Web by Jeffrey Zeldman.I left my baby daughter in the car while I went to buy dope. Then I drove away. I’dgone about five blocks when I realized my daughter wasn’t in the car anymore.
72That story clip was in the main content area of the Narcotics Anonymouswebsite. At the end of it there was another linear link to more stories.The site also had a passive navigation menu.A large part of usability is quickly connecting with people and thenmaking it easy for them to do whatever you want them to. In thisexample it would be to perhaps read more stories, to see there were otherpeople like them, to find hope, and seek treatment.A person is more likely to listen if they feel they belong on your site if they feel thepage was written just for them.Good UsabilityTake-with-a-grain-of-salt warning: Bear in mind that my own website does notcurrently follow all of these examples, but most of them are worth following if youcan." Allow users to control their experience." Do not place excessive text inside images." Keep a consistent site design." Have clear navigation." Use alternative text tags with images." Use standards where applicable." Keep file sizes small." Have search or a link to site-level search on every page. On smallersites (where site search may typically leave visitors empty-handed), alink to a sitemap will work better than a link to site-level search.Some large brands, like Amazon.com, may not follow some important usabilityguidelines, but they have the scale, brand and customer loyalty necessary to getaway with making changes that offered poorer usability than some of theirprevious designs.Allow the User to Control Their ExperienceWhile creating text elements, it is important to remember various people and themeans they will use to view your site. Some people are looking at the web througha phone; some can hardly see; some have text read to them.When specifying the text size or pallet size, it is best to use relative, not exact,values. If you set the text at eight pixels and a guy has large text turned on, he willsee your site at eight pixels (which can be hard to see on larger monitors, especiallyto a blind guy). He will not see your site.Setting the page width to 800 pixels might make a PDA user immediately switch toanother site. Setting width using percentages or keeping the page narrow makesthe content accessible on more devices. However, there is an exception to the rule.If the bulk of your income comes from ads, or controlling the exact layout isSome of the bestopportunities to improveyour bottom line are doneby improving conversionrates, which can be doneby making your site easierto use.
73crucial to earnings, then you may want to use a fixed width design to better controlthe ad integration into the site.When you design for different types of users, you not only avoid offending thesepeople, but you also are given extra consideration since you are one of the few whoaddressed their needs.Placing text in an image is typically a bad idea since it may appear illegible (or overlylarge) when the user sees the page on a platform different than the one on which itwas designed. Think of search engines as visitors with exceptionally poor vision—they cannot read the text in images.Consistent Site DesignPeople expect to see things in certain places. The upper left corner usually has alogo and a link to your home page. (Oftentimes the logo is the link.) Search iseither right beneath it or in the upper right-hand corner. Remember, people like tofeel comfortable.The most successful ideas are usually just re-packaged successful ideas from thepast. Clear navigation also makes it easier for the user to develop comfort and gowhere you want him to go. Even if you try something risky, at least be consistentwith it from page to page.Site-Level SearchThere are hoards of people who love to search for information. It is well worth itto include a small search box on every page if you have a larger content website.If you do not know anything about dynamic coding, you can get a third partysearch engine from Atomz, FreeFind, or Google. Many popular contentmanagement and blog software providers also have free built-in site-level search.On small sites you should not have a site-level search, as many of the searches willfail to find the desired information and frustrate the searcher. It is far easier toactively guide site visitors than to let them enter random text in a search box.On top of helping visitors navigate your site, a site-level search can also help youfind out what terms and ideas your visitors are interested in that your site may notyet have content about. You can create content around their needs and use theseterms for refining your pay-per-click keywords.With large sites, especially large forums, it may be helpful to highlight the searchterms on the page if site visitors arrived from a search engine.Use Standards Where ApplicablePeople know “blue underline” means “hyperlink.” Whenever possible, it is a goodidea to follow standards. Sometimes deviations may be necessary for site design,Many sites fail becausethey do not createsubstantial value andappeal prior to trying toextract profits.Many non-commercialsites make greater profitsthan commercial sitesbecause it is far easier andcheaper to build links intonon-commercial sites.
75If an image is simply part of the design or navigation, you can just use a blank alttag as the image does not contribute to the page theme. Also, stuffing 100 wordsin the alt tag does not likely add much to your SEO efforts and could make yourpages seem spammy.If you are unsure whether a page is using text or images, you can view the pagesource or hit control A to highlight the text and images.On linked images, many search algorithms treat the image alt text similarly to howthey treat link anchor text (which is described in more detail in the linking sectionof this e-book). Most SEOs recommend using the alt tag, but do not mention thetitle tag. Search algorithms try to use whatever they find useful; thus, if mostpeople are NOT stuffing the image titles full of junk because they don’t knowabout this feature, some search engines may eventually want to look there forgood, non-spammy text.I have yet to use it, but some people use dynamic text replacement to replace imageswith their associated text when site visitors have images turned off. Learn how todo this here: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/dynatext/. As long as it is not overtlymanipulative, search engines should not penalize you for using dynamic textreplacement.Using CSS to Minimize Page Load TimeUsing an external style sheet will keep many of your design elements on a singlecommon page. This prevents pages from looking jagged due to slightly differentlayout specifications between one page and the next. In addition, keeping layoutcode separate from content will decrease page load time.When users navigate from one page to another they will not need to reload thedesign elements of the page again since the style sheet will already be in their cache.Most typical web users expect pages to download within 8-10 seconds at the max.The longer a person waits for a page to download, the more likely they are to havetheir stream of thought interrupted.Flash is EvilThere are many reasons why huge Flash files are evil:" Those who view a Flash intro are usually not interested in seeing itevery time they come to your site." Flash development is an expense that is rarely justified and is rarelyfocused on the needs of the site visitor. Some Flash developers alsoprotect their Flash files to prevent others from editing them, whichmeans that you may need to hire them to make changes or design anew site if the Flash file has errors." Search engines struggle to index, navigate, and classify flash. Flashtypically offers little descriptive content, so even if engines could indexit, most won’t care to.
76" Flash files take a while to load—meanwhile, the user may be hitting theback button (kiss, kiss, goodbye)." Even if search engines can determine the content of Flash programs,most Flash designers place all the Flash in one program, which makesit hard for search engines to want to refer people to it." Some people use meta refreshes and other arbitrary Flash detectiontechnologies that disable the browser back button. Google AdWordswill not allow you to advertise sites that have the browser back buttondisabled." A Flash designer once disabled the back button on one of my client’swebsites. He wanted to charge her $4,000 to fix a problem caused byhis own incompetent behavior. It took me ten minutes to fix it, and heno longer does design work for her.If you do use Flash, try to keep your files small, embed the Flash files in HTMLpages, and use <noembed>what the Flash represents</noembed> to writewhat the content in the Flash represents.Flash also has an SDK, which can aid in search engine indexing, but it is usuallyrecommended to avoid Flash.SWFObject (http://blog.deconcept.com/swfobject/) is probably the best way to doXHTML valid Flash detection.I am not a usability expert by any means. If you are interested in the topic, Irecommend Jakob Nielsen’s site or his books, or you can buy Kim Krause’sinexpensive yet highly useful (and downloadable) usability checklist found athttp://www.usabilityeffect.com/ringbell.html.Generating RevenueCreate Value and Then Extract ProfitsYou want to earn money from your site, right? It’s easy if it is your hobby and notthe exclusive goal of your site. However, if your goal is to make larger profits, youwill need to look in areas such as advertising.Many sites fail because they fill their site with ads on before they even get a loyalfollowing. By creating value without placing much emphasis on early profits, youcan later make a larger sum of money when the site has a large, valuable user base.Also, remember that links have value. You need to gain link authority for searchengines to trust you. You will never build a large, profitable audience unless youget other people to want to link at your site.Non-Commercial Profits
77Even if you are only trying to sell your opinion, you can still earn money from itthrough hard work, creativity, or simple outspokenness. If you are sellingadvertising space, you first need to win great distribution. You do not win thatdistribution by throwing too many ads up too early! Offer something worthwhile,then try to extract value— in that order.I made a personal blog about losing weight that was accepted into DMOZ and theYahoo! Directory, both absolutely free. After the site aged and gained authority, Iplaced ads on it.It is easier to get links for a non-commercial site than for a commercial site. Afterthe links are in place, you can use that link popularity and authority to do whateveryou want to do with it.Some people may consider it bait-and-switch, but as long as your site does notdeviate too far from its original purpose, most of the links will likely stay.Banners versus Contextual AdsMany web surfers have become banner-blind and ignore the top part of a page.Banners have horrible click-through rates.I do not usually use default banner sizes unless I feel it fits well with the site design.The best revenue options are link rentals, sponsored content, or context-based textads. Good advertising does not look like advertising.One site that I work with sells links for $500 a month per link and only made about$30 a month off AdSense. Other times, AdSense can make far greater profits.Depending on the market, it may be best to use one or the other or a combinationof both.Reviewing ProductsIf you read a book you like, tell people about it. Give them the opportunity to buythe book from your website. Review products you like. Successful affiliatemarketers know it is much easier to sell products if they provide what appear to bepersonal, unbiased reviews.Mike’s Marketing Tools is a site that sells Internet marketing books and software.Some of the stuff he recommends is great, but some of it is also terrible. Nomatter what Mike thinks of the product, he gives the appearance of an honestunbiased positive review of just about everything listed in his directory. It usuallyhighlights more benefits than downsides. By doing that and ranking well fornumerous product names, he makes a good amount of money.If you do review products in depth, make sure you give each product its ownreview page.Point-of-Action Marketing
78If you are trying to sell your service, drive people toward it. A good technique forimproving subscriptions, for example, is to place a “We Value Privacy” statementnear the sign-up form. This is called point-of-action marketing.Assure people that it is safe for them to do what you want.Recently, Bryan Eisenberg, author of Persuasive Online Copywriting, made thestatement that placing a secure checkout symbol near the checkout typicallyimproves conversion rates between 5% and 15%.Establishing TrustUnbiased reviews and “We Value Privacy” help to build a strong trust element inyour relationship with your site visitors. In addition, logos from companies such asthe Better Business Bureau, TRUSTe, and Public Eye can help build trust.If you have a secure part of your site in frames, the lock (secured) symbol may notshow in the browser. When you are performing online transactions, it is a goodidea to avoid frames and display the VeriSign or Thawte secure symbols (asapplicable).Revenue Generating ProgramsSome popular revenue programs are Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, andother major affiliate program networks such as Commission Junction, LinkShare,and Performics and perhaps CafePress for smaller, personal websites.ClickBank is an affiliate program that works well for selling electronic information.PayPal is also an easy-to-use third party payment processor. Affiliates Alert tracksnew ClickBank products for sale. All of these websites are listed in the resourcesection at the end of the chapter.AdSense is rather selective about what partners it will accept, which is yet anotherreason why you want to focus on creating quality content. However, usually afterpeople have one site in the AdSense program, they let them run SiteScraper andother exceptionally low-quality spam sites on that same account.If you monetize your site using AdSense, it may be worth it to limit the number ofads that appear on the page, as more ads means you will be showing cheaper ads,and, in some markets, the cost per click quickly drops off rapidly. I also believe thefirst AdSense unit called from your source code will display the most expensive adspossible.Some topics may make next to nothing from pay-per-click ads, while otherindustries (such as California mortgage) may earn over a dollar a click. If you cancreate an idea that generates a decent amount of syndication and attracts a fewgood links, you may be able to make money selling text link ads or leveraging thatauthority to get pay-per-click contextual ads indexed.
79If you know your industry well, then you should have a few friends in it. If yoursite directly sells ad space, it is best to place a link or a few links to some of the topsites in that space. Most people are afraid to take risks and do not see value insomething until some of their competitors do. Why not show a few fake ads sopeople assume the ad space is valuable? After you gain a few advertisers, you cantake the fake ones down. It is important to understand who the important playersand aggressive ad buyers are in a market before doing this ad display technique.Affiliate Marketing TipsMany people create huge affiliate sites using product feeds. The problem withgeneric well-used feeds is that many other people will have the exact same content.Since Google does not desire to show multiple copies of the same content, most ofthe affiliate feed sites end up not getting indexed or are quickly removed from thesearch results if they are indexed.Some people end up adding RSS or other content to the pages to make them looksomewhat unique, but Google also employs remote content raters to evaluate sites.If the site looks like it would not have a functional purpose outside of the affiliateprogram, Google does not want it in their index. The instructions Google gaveremote content raters for determining if an affiliate site was useful was “is there avalue-added service that would make users want to visit this site instead of theoriginal merchant site?”People do not usually buy from affiliate banners. A better way to create affiliatesites is to create unique original content with what looks like unbiased reviews.Whether you are affiliate marketing or creating your own merchant site, eachunique item or idea should have its own unique page with sufficient unique contenton it. If the only difference between items is size or color, then you might run intoduplicate content issues (if pages are too similar, then Google may assume theyoffer little value or are of poor content quality).Lots of people offer sales letters, but if you create what looks like an original,thoughtful, and honest review, you can send people to the official sites using textlinks from within the reviews that convert exceptionally well. The less automatedyour site and SEO techniques are, the greater chance it will do well in the longterm.Many large affiliates also hide the affiliate links to make it harder for people to stealtheir affiliate commission. Instead of pointing to ‘www.merchant.com/?aff=123’,they would use .htaccess or link to a simple redirect script on their own site andpoint, for example, www.seobook.com/merchant to the merchant site using anaffiliate link.Some people think Google hates affiliate marketers. They do not necessarily hateaffiliates, but they hate unoriginal or useless content cluttering their search index.Most affiliate marketing sites are thin sites featuring duplicate content and otheruseless garbage.
80If you are new to the web and do not have much money to work with, one goodway to save money is to sell things to yourself using your own affiliate link. Somemerchants may not like this (it may violate some affiliate terms of service), butwhen I was new I frequently did it, and I occasionally still do today. If you cansave $50 for ten minutes of work, why not do it?Google AdSenseSince Google automates so much of the ad sales process and has such a large userbase, some people can make good money just by selling AdSense ads. Here are afew tips for getting the most profit out of your AdSense ads:" Good advertisements do not look like ads. Blend AdSense ads withthe site design by using similar fonts and colors." Usually the banner ad format is not good unless is looks exceptionallysimilar to the site design. Different format types will have differentCTRs and earnings. The vertical 160x600 “wide skyscrapers” and adblocks work well for me." Some people place many ad units on each page. This may work, butmany times this hurts earnings since you are selling more ad inventoryto cheap ads, which may end up getting clicked instead of the moreexpensive ads that would display if you ran fewer ad units." Default blue with underline is good at getting clicks. Increasing adclickthrough rate should be a consideration before doing any majordesign or redesign." Some people place visual cues next to their AdSense ads, but youcannot tell people to click on the ads." If you are running a somewhat spammy AdSense site that is just therefor AdSense revenue, you want to limit users’ options by not givingthem many other links to click on. Either do not use site navigationabove the fold or visually depreciate the navigation links." Google AdSense has channel tracking and URL tracking, which willshow you how various channels and sites perform. Additionally, thereare a variety of third party programs that sell for around $50 to $100that provide additional details. I like and use AdSense Tracker." Google offers AdSense optimization tips on their site athttps://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/static.py?page=tips.html. Notice how placing ads where navigation typically goesincreases earnings." JenSense.com is a good blog about contextual advertising. Jen is alsobranded as an AdSense expert. She sells consulting services to helppeople optimize their accounts and is also a moderator at SearchEngine Watch forums." Your ad click-through rate is going to be highly dependent on youraudience profile. More sophisticated people tend to click fewer ads." Yahoo! is beta testing a publisher contextual ad program similar toGoogle’s, but Yahoo! does not have as much ad network depth as
81Google does. Also, Yahoo! tends to focus on expensive ads, whereasGoogle focuses more on ad relevancy, and, thus, gets a higherclickthrough rate.When using AdSense, the CTR and earnings can be much higher if you make acouple small changes. The key is to test different things to see what is mosteffective for your site design and setup.Some sites place the ads in such a way that it hurts their ability to gain links. If youare actively trying to promote a site and build an audience, make sure the ads arenot so prominent that they end up causing people to question the purpose orusefulness of your site. For example, it may make sense to show no ads on yourhome page to make the site seem more legitimate.Many blog posts are generally short, targeted, and quick to make. Many blognetworks are used as AdSense keyword nets. Reporting topical news can build alarge number of pages quickly. Weblogs, Inc. is one of the more well-known blognetworks that aggressively integrates AdSense ads.Google also offers AdLinks, which is another ad format that has helped somepublishers. A new contextual ad program by the name of Chitika has been gainingpraise from a number of bloggers although some have been absolutely frustratedby their ad auditing.An Example of Google AdSense IntegrationThis screenshot is the upper left corner of an AdSense site. For the screenshot, Ichanged the topic of the site to “Illinois Dental” because I didn’t want to point outthe vertical the site targeted.Notice the following about the screenshot:
82" Under the tab titled Illinois Dentists, in an area that looks like subnavigation, there are Google AdLinks." Where left-hand navigation normally goes, there is a 160x 600 wideskyscraper." The AdSense link color is default blue." The AdSense URL color is the same color as other page elements tointegrate it into the site design." The color flag in the upper left draws attention toward the upper left.If the eye moves down or to the right from there, people find ads.Other AdSense Tips" Inline ad blocks also get a great click-through rate." Typically, I place fewer ads on the home page than inner pages inorder to make my AdSense sites seem less ad-cluttered than they are.Some pages sell the site as being of quality and linkworthy. Otherpages sell ad clicks. It is a balancing act." If you make the content look ugly enough, the ads can look relativelyappealing, but that is probably not a good approach for sites you wantto be long-term earners." Centering content and using fixed-width designs makes it easy tocontrol the ad placement and ad-to-content ratio." Many high-traffic, low-cost-per-click sites can greatly increase theirincome by placing Google search boxes on their site.Value-Added PackagingIn any arena, there will only be a few people who make lots of money packaging orrepackaging information. Coming up with value-added packaging ideas will helpguarantee the success of your product. I sold more books than I ever thought Iwould have based primarily on the fact that the book was attached to my blog.Most other SEOs selling a book do not have a search engine news blog where theygive away free tips.If you sell things, like jewelry, the visual appearance of the site is exceptionallyimportant. Design and copy help develop trust and are part of the packaging.People do not pay (or want to pay) for what something is allegedly valued at; theywant to pay what they feel it is worth to them.Price and ValueIn the past, I sold my e-book for half of its current price. Some people assumedthat it must have low value based upon that price point. Since then, I have donethousands of hours of research and writing, which likely greatly increased its value.Few affiliate marketers wanted to make a small share of $40 when they couldrecommend other products and make $50-$100 commission per sale.
83From what I have seen, affiliate marketing is not usually honest, and most affiliatesrecommend what makes them the most money, not what is the best value or thebest product. For example, many affiliates promote software in fields wherebetter free software exists. Software like OpenOffice allows you to make PDFs forfree. People still market a bunch of junky PDF generator software because it iseasy money and because search engines deliver poor relevancy for many PDF-related queries.I doubled the price of my e-book and later switched to hosting my own affiliateprogram. Within a couple months, I had over 100 new affiliates and ads for my e-book appeared on thousands of pages.If this e-book gives some successful marketers only a couple useful tips, then it hasmore than paid for itself. Others who are newer to web marketing would expectmuch more, since they still have much to learn.The more business experience people have, the more reasonable their expectationsare. Raising my price filtered out most of the worst potential clients. Some peoplewill never be happy no matter what you do. The more you try to use price asyour competitive advantage, the lower the quality of your customer baseand the more hate and fraud you deal with on a daily basis.I have ranked clients at #1 in Google for terms worth over $10,000 a month whilecharging them less than a $1,000 one-time fee for the service, and they were stillangry at me. That is what you get when you accept commodity clients and sellyourself as a commodity. People are rarely appreciative.You are only a commodity if you think of yourself as one. If you sell your productat commodity prices, you will attract commodity clients who may never be pleasedwith the amount of value you deliver.Being Published, Gate Keepers & Profit MarginsA major book publishing company read this book and wanted to publish it. I wasall for it if I could keep electronic distribution rights. They wanted me to give thatup and take a huge pay cut, and meanwhile I would have had to hope that theywould have done a good job marketing the book. For most authors, that’s neverthe case.I have sold more copies of this e-book than the average physical book sells. If mybusiness model revolved around a physical book, the slim margins would mean Icould not afford to compete in the pay-per-click market, and affiliate marketerswould market inferior products to my book because they would get paid a highercommission.Do not let others fool you into thinking that you need their help or that you needto be a part of their network to succeed. A few years ago, I knew nothing aboutthe web or marketing; I was kicked out of the military for using drugs; I had few
84social connections; and I had to backdate a credit card to have money to live on.Now, money is of no concern to me.To be honest, I could probably make at least five times as much as I do just bywriting smaller and quicker e-books on a wide variety of topics and marketing themvia strong sales copy and pay-per-click ads. If you look through the ClickBankmarketplace, you will see there are thousands of Internet marketers making farmore money than I do by doing just that—creating dozens of similar informationproducts in various markets.Business Model & Visitor ValueSome people are good at sales and know how to create more value out of their sitevisitors. When you learn how to increase your visitor value by increasing theamount they are willing to buy or how often they convert, you allow yourself toreceive far greater exposure. For example, at $40 I had maybe 20 affiliates. After Idoubled the price of my e-book, I could afford to pay a high enough commissionto interest more good affiliates.Once you know the value of an average site visitor, then you know how much youcan afford to spend on leads, which in turn helps you feel comfortable marketingmore aggressively. Don’t try to compete directly against more profitable businessmodels (for example, link brokers) in hyper-saturated, pay-per-click markets.Capturing Leads versus SalesWhen selling expensive items (over $100), many marketers prefer to get theprospect’s primary e-mail address before trying to sell the item. Direct responsemarketing usually peaks in response rate around the third exposure, so manymarketers want to get prospects on an autoresponder series.Many marketers also have the shopping cart page open in a new browser so theprospect has to close two browser windows to leave the site.How Well Does My Item Fit the Web?Some items make no sense to sell over the web. Heavy commodities that arecheaply and easily accessible are bad items.Other items fit the web perfectly. For example, a topic people would be ashamedor embarrassed about is a likely candidate to write an e-book about. E-booksabout genital warts or beating a DUI ticket are likely to fit the web well becausemany people would be embarrassed to buy those types of items in person.If you had a problem and your book, software, product, or idea helps others solvethe same problem, you can use yourself as an example. In a sense, you are sellingyourself and your own experiences. Authentic-sounding voices and stories in firstperson sound more authentic. Testimonials are important if you are in saturatedmarkets like dating or weight loss.
85What emotions will people have when searching for your ideas? How can youconnect with their desires or sense of empathy?Researching Demand for a ProductAlex Mandossian created a concept he calls the “ask database.” For niche ideasyou can market an e-book or product before you complete it. Using AdWords,you may be able to find targeted leads for a nickel. For example, you can sendpeople to a page telling them you are just about done writing an e-book on a topic.Tell them you are looking to add a little more information. Ask them what theyfeel is important. Offer them the e-book free in exchange for their e-mail addressand feedback. Over time, you will collect the most important topics the e-bookshould cover and you can pay a copywriter to write those topics.Instead of paying for a complex customer feedback database, you can havefeedback sent to a Gmail account, which you can later search through.You can also use a similar technique to price a new e-book. Tell people theyqualify as a pre-reader and ask them what they would be willing to pay for theinformation. Some small percentage of people will type in 20 cents or $1, butthose would be the same people who are not interested, or who would immediatelywant to return your product just to try to get it free. Ignoring those numbers, youcan then look at the remaining prices people offered and determine a good pricefrom there. If your product does not cost you much for each incremental sale,then you are not out much finding exactly what people would want and the exactprice they are willing to pay for it.Price PointsI do not sell a lot of varied products, but I read about and listen to many marketers.Many people believe that ending a price on the number seven is a good thingbecause many consumers are taught that the number seven is good due to religion,gaming, and other ideas. If your price is going to be somewhat cheap, you canusually end the price in $9.95 without seeing a huge drop in sales.If you are going close to $100 or over, then you may also want to try ending theprice with a 7. Usually the only time to end a price on round numbers (like $250 or$500) is if you are trying to appeal to people who are trying to buy something forits extravagance.Value & Price DisconnectIf you look on the Amazon.com marketplace, sometimes a brand new hardcoverversion of a book will sell for far less than a used copy of the paperback version. Ifind it interesting in a marketplace of that size that there would be large pricedisconnects with items so close to one another.
86In any market there will be price disconnects, many of which will make no logicalsense. If your long-term business model is being the cheapest, then you may wantto refocus on brand-building or other aspects, or your business model may bedoomed from the start.Interactive ElementsLiteratureBly, Robert W. The Online Copywriter’s Handbook. New York:McGraw-Hill, 2003.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0658020994/)Caples, John, and Fred Hahn.. Tested Advertising Methods.Prentice Hall, 1998.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0130957011/)Eisenberg, Bryan, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Lisa T. Davis. PersuasiveOnline Copywriting. Wizard Academy Press, 2002.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0971476993/)Godin, Seth. The Big Red Fez. New York: Free Press, 2002.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0743227905/)Krause, Kim. Usability Checklist. The Usability Effect. 26 December2006. (http://www.usabilityeffect.com/ringbell.html)Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think. New Riders Press, 2002.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0789723107/)Locke, Christopher, et. al. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End ofBusiness as Usual.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738204315/)(Also available online for free athttp://www.cluetrain.com/book/index.html)Nielsen, Jakob. Designing Web Usability. Peachpit Press, 1999.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/156205810X/)---. UseIt Alertbox. Useit.com. 26 December 2006.(http://www.useit.com/alertbox/)Usborne, Nick. Net Words. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0071380396/)Wall, Aaron. What is Quality Content? Blog.v7n.com. 26 December2006. (http://www.v7n.com/quality-content.php)Zeldman, Jeffrey. Taking Your Talent to the Web: Making theTransition from Graphic Design to Web Design. Indianapolis,
87IN: Waite Group Press, 2001.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0735710732/104- 7658529-2666358)SoftwareAAA Logo: logo design software(http://www.aaa-logo.com/)Adobe Photoshop (Image software)(http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/main.html)Atomz: free site-level search(http://www.atomz.com)Blogger: 100% free, easy to use blog software(http://www.blogger.com)EZY Logo(http://www.ezylogo.com/)FreeFind: free site-level search(http://www.freefind.com)The Logo Company(http://thelogocompany.net)Macromedia Dreamweaver: top-of-the-line web page editor(http://www.macromedia.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=dreamweaver)Movable Type: my second favorite blog software. Seobook.com usesMT.(http://www.movabletype.org)Site Grinder – creates websites from Photoshop templates(http://www.medialab.com/sitegrinder/)SWFObject: XHTML-friendly Flash detection(http://blog.deconcept.com/swfobject/)TypePad: Movable Type’s web-based blog software(http://www.typepad.com/)WordPress: my favorite blog software(http://wordpress.org/)WebsitesAdSense optimization tips(http://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/static.py?page=tips.html)
88Affiliates Alert: tracks new ClickBank products for sale(http://www.affiliatesalert.com/)Amazon Associate Program(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/associates/join/associates.html)Apache SSI Tutorial(http://httpd.apache.org/docs/howto/ssi.html)Beyond Algorithms: A Librarians Guide to Finding Web Sites YouCan Trust(http://www.google.com/librariancenter/articles/0601_02.html)CafePress: sells t-shirts, clothing, and other small material, which isgood for sites with a cult following (http://www.cafepress.com/)Chartreuse: The Correct Way To Build A Niche Website(http://chartreuse.wordpress.com/2006/02/01/the-correct-way-to-build-a-niche-website/)ClickBank: affiliate program and payment processor for electronicgoods and services(http://www.clickbank.com)Comprehensive Guide to .htaccess(http://www.wsabstract.com/howto/htaccess.shtml)CSS @ W3 Schools(http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp)CSS House: online demonstration showing how powerful CSS is(http://www.designdetector.com/tips/3DBorderDemo2.html)CSS Zen Garden(http://www.csszengarden.com)Dynamic text replacement article: how to replace images with text(http://www.alistapart.com/articles/dynatext/)GapingVoid: free weblog talking about the concept of “smarterconversations”(http://www.gapingvoid.com/)Google AdSense(http://www.google.com/adsense)Google Co-op: Google’s vertical social search product(http://www.google.com/coop/)GrokDotCom: conversion marketing tips(http://www.grokdotcom.com/)JenSense: contextual advertising blog(http://www.jensense.com)
89Macromedia Flash SDK(http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/download/search_engine/search_engine_faq.html)OSWD: free website designs(http://www.oswd.org/)Other affiliate programs: my list of top affiliate directories(http://www.search-marketing.info/business/affiliate-programs.htm)PayPal: nearly universal payment processor(http://www.paypal.com)Politics and the English Language(http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm)PSD 2 HTML – creates websites from Photoshop templates(http://www.psd2html.com/)Quality Content is Conceptually Unique(http://www.sugarrae.com/permalink/when-unique-content-is-not-unique/)Rob Frankel: one of the best branding experts in the world(http://www.robfrankel.com/)Sample SSI website. Search Marketing Info(http://www.search-marketing.info/)Seth Godin: blog by one of the more creative marketers on the web(http://sethgodin.typepad.com/)Tragedy of the Commons(http://dieoff.org/page95.htm)W3C CSS Guidance(http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/)Weblogs Inc.: large blog network(http://www.weblogsinc.com)Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are Kingin Entertainment(http://www.bearstearns.com/bscportal/research/analysts/wang/112706/112706.pdf)Why I think using blogs is a great idea for many websites(http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/articles.htm#blogs)XHTMLized – creates websites from Photoshop templates(http://www.xhtmlized.com/)
90Yahoo! Publisher Network: Yahoo!’s version of AdSense(http://publisher.yahoo.com/)Some Notes" Search for your topic. Find the #1 result on your favorite search engine. Ifyou know more than them, you will eventually replace them. If not,consider further focus of your topic or consider buying books and readingwebsites to better learn about your topic. Eventually you will be #1." Decide what type of editor would be logical to use for your site. I stronglyencourage the use of blog software." If you believe you are weak in the skills of copywriting and usabilityengineering, buy a book that covers the topic in which you are weak." List three ways you can generate revenue from your site without making itlook like the sole purpose of the site." If your site is an e-commerce site, list three reasons or features that wouldmake customers (and competitors) talk about your site.
91Writing for Search Engines“Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past andanalyze more completely and objectively his present problems.”- from As We May Think by Vannevar BushFinally…What was all that other junk? What do the spiders want to see? What arethe best words to use? Where do I place them?Don’t worry, the above chapters are not a complete wash. The more you learnabout the web, the more you will learn how ideas overlap. Good usability is usuallyequal to good search engine optimization.Some people stress search engine optimization so much that they forget about theirvisitors’ needs. SEO is just one part of the site-building puzzle. Ultimately, it isyour social impact or cash in the bank that is a measure of success, not where yourank for some random search query.In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell shows how small changes can bearamazing results. If you can learn to include some of those little extras that makeyour site better than your competition’s, site, you will find that others will do yourmarketing for you. That is why I think it is more important to understand theconcepts of the web and the goals of search engines versus just learning the flavor-of-the-moment optimization. If everything else is good, then you do not need toworry as much about optimization.Plus, knowing the above in addition to doing search engine optimization will allowyou to draw lots of visitors and have a higher conversion rate. On the web, whenyou lose a customer, it is usually forever. The last thing you want to do is drawprospective customers into a minefield they are sure to regret.Each and every page is a chance to capture or lose customers.Focusing a Site & Combining Site IdeasOne time, a person contacted me asking for a bit of help with their site. Theywanted me to submit their site to directories. When I looked at their site I saw itsold handmade hemp jewelry and SEO services.Chapter4
92In the real world, you would never see people do something like this, but manypeople think it is fine on the web.On the web there are even more alternatives to your business than in the realworld. Because of this, you need to focus on the consumer that much more.It is fine to have many unique ideas and revenue streams, but each site shouldcover its own specific niche. If you cross industries within your site, you weakenyour brand and may offend many people. What are the odds that someone islooking for SEO services while shopping for hemp?Even within the specific niche of SEO, I can have a site for linking, one forkeyword research, one for pay-per-click…the list goes on. Most websites failbecause they fail to properly focus, not because they are too focused.KeywordsWhat are Keywords?Keywords are phrases under which you would want your website to be found insearch engines. Keywords are typically two-to-five-word phrases you expectpeople to search for to find your website. Oftentimes, corporate climates forcepeople to refer to things using special phrases. Keywords are not about what youcall your stuff. Keywords are what Joe average surfer (or your prospective sitevisitors) may type in a search box.How do You Learn Best?Some people learn better from video than from reading text. If you like video, youmay prefer to look at the Dan Thies keyword research video he mentions near theend of his post on this page:http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/blog/2005/10/seo-controlling-entry-pages.htmlFocusing a KeywordWhen people tell you to target the word free, they are out of their minds. Thatsingle word is too general and has too much competition. I just did a search onYahoo! for free and it returned 749,000,000 results. That is over 10% of the webtrying to use free as a sales pitch.I am not saying that free should not be on your page; it is a compelling offer onmany of mine. I am saying that keywords should define the product or idea. Freealone just does not get this done.Keyword PhrasesIf free isn’t a keyword, then what is? Keywords are typically two-to-five-wordphrases you expect people to search for to find your website. What would youSingle word keywords areusually not well-targetedand are hard to rank for.Longer keywords areeasier to rank well for andtypically have betterconversion rates.
93expect people to type in the browser to find your site? If you were looking foryour product, what would you type? What types of problems does your product orservice solve? Those answers are likely good keyword phrases.Keyword LengthA longer search phrase is typically associated with better targeting and increasedconsumer desire. Some people say shorter keyword searchers are shoppers andlonger keyword searchers are buyers.As you add various relevant descriptive copy to pages, you are more likely toappear in search results similar to your keywords that do not exactly match yourmore generic root-term keywords. Most good keyword phrases are generally twoto five words.Keyword Value PyramidOne of the most fatal flaws of many SEO campaigns is that people think they needto rank well for one term or a few generic terms. Generic terms may occasionallyconvert, but most strong-converting search terms are specific.If you read SEO forums you often hear many posts about something like a SanDiego real estate agent no longer ranking for a generic term such as real estate.Since the term is too generic for most of his target market (and his service wouldnot be fitting for most people searching for that term), it makes sense that searchengines would not want to show his site in those search results. As searchcontinues to evolve, it will get better at filtering out untargeted or inappropriatesites.Targeting generic terms outside of your area means that you need to use aggressivetechniques to try to rank. There are several problems that can go along with beingtoo aggressive:" Targeting exceptionally generic terms may not add much value, sincethe leads are not strongly qualified. Paying extra to rank for moregeneric terms may not be a cost that is justified unless you can resellthose leads at a profit." Being exceptionally aggressive raises your risk profile and makes yoursite more likely to fluctuate in rankings when new search algorithmsare rolled out." Some of the best value is at the bottom of the keyword pyramid. Ifyou spend too much time focused too broadly on the top you maymiss some of the exceptional value on the bottom.
94Here is a search value pyramid:As you can see from the image, the more we target our specific market, the greatervalue we can extract from our sites. I am not suggesting always trying to use freeonline Texas holdem software download over and over again, but by scattering thosevarious words (and related words) throughout your copy, you may be able to rankfor many related phrases.Where On the Pyramid Do I Start?Usually, most sites are designed from the top down, starting with a generic conceptand working their way down through specific topics. Another way to look at thepyramid concept is to look at where the top of your pyramid should start.Some people will always start at the top with a term like travel, but in doing that theyhave to work a long way down to get to the specific categories. If you are not well-funded, that may be impractical.If you start your pyramid with more specific terms at the top, your site will have astronger theme, and it will be easier for you to dominate your niche market. Asyour link popularity spreads from the home page, it does not have to go far toreach Honolulu beach wedding packages if your site is about Hawaii weddings or Honolulu.I am not suggesting that most webmasters should make hundreds of 3--5 pagewebsites, but what I am saying is that it is better to have 100 useful pages aboutJamaica than to have 1,000 lower-quality pages about travel in general.
95You have to be able to evaluate how competitive your market is, what resourcesyou have available, and whether you can compete in that market. A large reasonmany websites fail is that they are too broad or unfocused. If the top sites in yourindustry are Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and other well-knownproperties, you need to have a large budget, create something fundamentallyinnovative, or look for a better niche opportunity in which you can dominate.Keyword Density (KD)Keyword density analyzers end up focusing people on something that is notimportant. This causes some people to write content that looks like a robot wroteit. That type of content will not inspire people to link to it and will not convertwell.In March of 2005, Dr. Garcia, an information retrieval scientist, wrote an articleabout keyword density. His conclusion was “this overall ratio [keyword density]tells us nothing about:" the relative distance between keywords in documents (proximity);" where in a document the terms occur (distribution);" the co-citation frequency between terms (co-occurrence);" or the main theme, topic, and sub-topics (on-topic issues) of thedocuments.Thus, KD is divorced from content quality, semantics, and relevancy.”Later on I will discuss how to structure page content, but it is important to knowthat exact keyword density is not an important or useful measure of quality.Why Focusing on Keyword Density is a Waste of TimeAbout half of all search queries are unique. Many of the searches that bring visitorsto your sites are for keyword phrases you never would have guessed. If a site is notwell-established, most search traffic will be for long, multiword search phrases.When webmasters start thinking about keyword density, many of them tend toremove descriptive modifiers and other semantically-related terms. Since some ofthose terms will no longer appear on the page, the “optimized” site no longer rankswell for many queries.People write, search, and use language in similar ways. Thus, if you write naturally,you are going to be far better optimized for long-tail searches than some personwho wastes time on keyword density will be.If the content sounds like it was designed for engines instead of people, then lesspeople are going to want to read it or link to it.Time spent tweaking keyword density would usually be better spent creatingadditional useful original content.
96Internal-SpeakA major cell phone company refuses to use the terms cellular phone or cell phoneon their site because, in their words, “We don’t just sell analog phones, we selldigital phones as well. ‘Cellular’ is old technology.” In engineering-speak, !cellularphone’ is a phone that uses ‘cell towers’ to move voice back and forth via analogfrequencies. They didn’t seem to understand that most customers refer to theirmobile phone as a ‘cell phone’ or ‘cellular phone,’ and they don’t give a rip aboutthe technology that makes the phone work.Make sure you research how customers search. Do not rely on what the companyprefers to call things.Finding KeywordsThere are many different ways to find keywords for your website. Some goodkeyword ideas are the following:" Words people would search for to find your product" Results from data mining your site-level search information if you havea site-level search." Problems your prospective customers may be trying to solve with yourproduct or service (even if they do not know you exist)" Keyword tags on competitors’ websites" Visible page copy on competitors’ websites" Related search suggestions on large search engines (such as Ask orYahoo!)" Related term suggestions at smaller engines such as Gigablast,Vivisimo, Become.com, and Snap" Keyword groupings via tools such as Google Sets or the MSNclustering technology preview" Lexical FreeNet: helps find related terms and ideas using a largedatabase of related terms (this is well beyond the scope of needs formost people trying to do SEO)" Tag Cloud: Tag Cloud is a free folksonomy tool showing related terms.If your product name or brand are related to other common terms inyour market, then you are doing a good job working your brand intothe semantic language. For example, when I search Yahoo! for seobook, sometimes they show a see also result for seo book aaron.Sometimes Yahoo! recommends seo book when I search for seo." Keyword suggestion tools, which are covered in the next sectionKeyword Selection TipsThe goal of keywords is to choose terms that will bring well-targeted traffic to yourwebsite. Each page on your site can be targeted for a few different keywordI frequently optimize foroverlapping terms so I canrank well for multipleterms without losing thefocus of the page orsounding robotic.
97phrases. Typically I like to just do about one to two primary phrases and, at most,two to three secondary phrases.Overlapping Keyword PhrasesIt makes sense to optimize the same page for keyword phrases that share some ofthe same words. A page that ranks well for search engine marketing should easily beable to rank well for professional search engine marketing or search engine marketing services.Only Use a Few Keyword Phrases per PageA note of caution--you cannot optimize a page for 20 different keywords. As youadd more keywords to the mix, you lessen the focus of the page. The page canstart to sound robot-created if you optimize for too many terms. Remember thatconverting eyeballs is what matters. People are not likely to link to or buy from apage that reads like rubbish.Misspelled KeywordsYou usually do not want to use misspelled keywords in your body copy or pagetitle on sites you want to do well long term as they will look somewhatunprofessional. But a large volume of search queries are misspelled, and thatmarket is easier to compete in than the core related keywords.Some sites use “Did you mean…” pages, focusing the page title and heading tag onthe misspelled versions of the keyword and then underneath it say “OftentimesInternet searchers searching for xxx misspell the word as blah or blah. If you arelooking for xxx you are in the right place. Learn more about our blah blah blah…”Search spelling correction will get more sophisticated over time. Search engineswant to correct for misspellings in the search results pages before the users get toyour site. I spoke with a search engine product manager who stated thatmisspellings can flag pages for relevancy reviews and usually misspellings for SEOare not recommended for most websites.If you are using throw-away domains in competitive environments, thenmisspellings might help you get some targeted traffic without requiring as mucheffort. Also, if you have a community-driven site, it will naturally include manymisspellings from various bad-spelling authors.About.com includes “common misspellings” in their page copy in a way that doesnot sound or seem spammy. On definition pages they define a word, give itspronunciation, link to related resources, have a section called “also known as,” anda section titled “common misspellings.”Many of About.com’s sections are probably more useful to bots than humans, butthey help draw in traffic. Their site is established enough and the format islegitimate enough that few people question it.
98There is no right or wrong way to play misspellings, just risks versus rewards.Consider your brand strength, your goals, and how legitimate you can make themisspelling usage look.As an example of a creative way to play with misspellings, if you want your page tolook professional but want to get misspellings in the page copy, maybe you cantarget that keyword on a page with consumer feedback, and leave misspelledconsumer feedback yourself.Plural Keyword VersionsSome search engines use stemming, but usually the search results for singular andplural search phrases are at least slightly different. It is recommended that youoptimize for common versions of your popular keywords, while occasionally usingother versions of the words throughout your copy.Capitalized KeywordsMost major search engines are not case sensitive. Cars is typically treated the sameway as cars.Hyphenated KeywordsMost search engines treat hyphens as a space. E-mail is different than email. If aword is split in half by a hyphen then you should check to see which version isused more frequently and optimize for whatever versions are commonly searchedupon.If one version of a term is more commonly searched for but is hyper-competitive,it may make sense to optimize for the less competitive term first.If a hyphen is sometimes placed between two words, then using either version(with or without a hyphen) will cause your page to rank better for both versions.Localized Keyword ResearchPeople use different terminology in different countries. In the U.S., we want taxicabs. In London, they look for a car hire. Make sure that if you are not from thecountry of your target market, you know what words are commonly used todescribe the products or services you are promoting there. It is typically alsoimportant that your copy sounds local if you are targeting local markets.Common Keyword ProblemsThere are a few common problems with keyword selection:" Some people use their internal corporate catch phrases versus focusingon what people actually search for." Sometimes words have a more commonly used different meaning thatelevates the estimated traffic and competition level without actually
99bringing in any more sales. This especially holds true for shortenedwords (examples: pics, cams)." Some people use really generic words that are not very relevant and areextremely competitive. Optimizing my site for search engine would be agood example of this. Lots of competition to attain trafficdisinterested in my services.Keyword Selection is a Balancing ActYou want the words to be descriptive enough for you to qualify the person anddescribe your product. You also want the search term to be general enough to besomething that is frequently searched for. The definition of “frequently” changesdepending on industry and the value of a lead, but common sense should helpguide you in finding what keywords are the right ones to target. Sales usually arefar more important than just the quantity of traffic you get. The power ofkeywords is in their precise targeting.Sure you can list well for a really long search term that is present only on your site,but you want it to be something your prospects are searching for. On the flip side,it is usually hard to list for a single word such as outsourcing. Selecting keywords is abalancing act. Most good keywords are two to five words long.Use your home page to target a primary keyword and use the other pages to targetother keyword phrases. The keyword phrases targeted on each page should also beterms that describe the contents of that page and terms that are likely to yieldconversions.Frequently Asked QuestionsA great way to find targeted prospects is to find what ideas and concepts areimportant to them in the buying cycle. Why do they buy? Why did they chooseyou? What are common questions they may have during the buying cycle?You can create a page focused around each of the common buying questions toshow up in the search results when people are about to buy and are focused onthose ideas. Answer the questions as best you can and then place your ads or callto action near the answer.Ignoring Keyword Research? When toFor some pages, like customer support pages, it makes sense to optimize them forthe problems people might have with your products, but you want to make surethat in the attempts to optimize the pages you do not hurt the readability.Not every page needs optimized for keywords. Others may be optimized more forclient usability or linkability.If you can spread a great idea that other people will link to and reference, then thatis a good thing. Sometimes you can get keywords in great article headlines, but if
100making the title keyword rich means that few people will link to it, then I suggestchoosing to go with the story that spreads over the story that ranks. You couldalways go back and change the title later after the story spreads.Keyword Suggestion ToolsThere are a variety of tools on the web that do a good job of helping you findwhich keywords get searched for and how frequently they are searched for. I willcover a variety of them, although if you use the free SEO Book Keyword Researchtool and the Google AdWords keyword suggestion tool, you probably do not needto spend money on any of the other tools.I typically use keyword suggestion tools just to help find common phrases andcommon modifiers. I do not look at the search volume numbers on any of themas being quantitative, just qualitative. This is especially true when you consider thatmuch of the relevant search traffic is going to be three-, four-, and five-wordqueries, and you might not think of which ones may not show up on any of thesetools.SEO Book Keyword Research Toolhttp://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword/My tool is a free keyword research tool based on the Overture search termsuggestion tool. My keyword research tool pulls keyword data from Overture andthen provides links to many related tools. When you first look at it the tool maylook a bit overwhelming, but all it does is make it easy to cross reference all the bestkeyword tools on the market and the related search results for each term. My toolhas about a dozen columns. Above are the first half dozen or so.At the bottom of the keyword search results it also links to blog search, newssearch, tag search, and some other vertical search types to help you find relatedcontent, resources, and ideas to write about. This can prove exceptionally useful ifyou need one or two more resources to reference to prove a point or complete anarticle.The Overture keywordtool can show inflatedsearch volumes forcommercial queries due toautomated bots queryingthe network.WordTracker also will beoff on certain searches aswell.The free Digital Point toolshows both of their resultsside by side so you can seea couple different searchvolume “opinions.”Google Suggest resultsmay also be organized inorder of search volumeand Google offers avariety of other usefulkeyword research tools. Icreated my tool to make iteasy to cross reference allof them.
101I created a free video explaining how my tool works:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4731142191695956676.Please don’t hate me for my need to improve my video skills though.Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Toolhttps://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternalTo the right end of my tool, I link to the Google AdWords keyword suggestiontool. Google’s tool is free to use.On top of suggesting related keywords to a word you enter, they also can spideryour site or a competing site or page and return a keyword list based on what theythink a page is about. It is exceptionally valuable to get feedback from the leadingsearch engine about what they think your site is about.Since Google has more search volume than anyone else, the odds of themrecommending frequently searched, high-value terms are pretty good.
102This tool approximates competition and gives twelve months of historical data. Atthe top of the inserted image you can see that they allow you to sort throughdifferent datasets, which include keyword popularity, advertiser competition level,and cost-per-click estimates. They also make it easy to add keywords to aspreadsheet that you can use to organize your SEO or pay-per-click advertisingcampaigns.Yahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool (Formerly Branded as Overture)http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/Yahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool is a free tool based on the prior month’sYahoo! Search Marketing ad distribution. Please note that the Yahoo! toolcombines singular and plural versions of a word (car and cars would both appear ascar). Since Yahoo! makes money by selling ads and many automated bots searchthrough their distribution network, their search volume results may run high (somehighly broad and highly competitive commercial terms are off by a factor greaterthan tenfold).If you find the term barber shop gets fifteen monthly searches and you find a termlike Seattle barber shop gets 137 monthly searches, then it’s likely some Seattle barbershop owner is frequently checking his rankings.Yahoo! has local keyword databases as well. For example, if you search for Overturesuggest UK you should be able to find their U.K. interface.Yahoo! also offers a view bid tool that will show you what some of the top bids fora keyword are.http://uv.bidtool.overture.com/d/search/tools/bidtool/Google Suggesthttp://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en
103Google Suggest auto-completes search queries based on search volume. You canuse this tool to help you find many of your deeper keyword phrases after you findsome of your broad keywords. My site also offers a scraper tool that queriesGoogle Suggest.WordTrackerWordTracker is more robust than most keyword research tools. The data poolWordTracker uses offers better data than what is offered by something likeOverture since it separates plural listings from singular versions and also tracksmeta search click-throughs versus tracking search engine ads. WordTracker alsoprovides lateral and thesaurus searches, which means that they will return manykeywords like search engine promotion when you search for seo.Since WordTracker makes money by providing accurate statistics versus sellingkeywords, their traffic tends to be a fairer representation of actual web traffic thanOverture’s commercially biased results. Keep in mind that their meta search userbreakdown might be different than the cross section of normal web surfers andvery low search counts will likely produce many anomalies.WordTracker is a tool well worth trying if you plan to do in-depth keywordanalysis. You can buy a year subscription for a few hundred dollars or use it for aday for under $10. They also offer a variety of subscription options between thosetwo time frames.Like any other keyword research tool, WordTracker data can be spammed bycompetitors. For example, if you find the phrase golden nugget to convert really well,then you can go to Dogpile and WebCrawler and search for an alternate version(like gold nugget) to make unimportant terms look like important ones and hide thegood ones. I do not think many people do this, but it can be done and is morelikely to happen in competitive markets.WordTracker has a free informational guide on their site you may want to readbefore using there service so you can get the most out of WordTracker.WordTracker also has a competition feature (called KEI) that aims to determinehow competitive a phrase is, but the KEI tool is no longer very useful in myopinion. KEI looks at the number of competing pages to determine howcompetitive a market is, but that has long been a poor measurement ofcompetition. Later in this e-book I will give you my tips on how to determine howcompetitive a phrase is.Keyword DiscoveryKeyword Discovery is a product similar to WordTracker with a few more featuresand a deeper database. WordTracker is believed to have a cleaner database, butKeyword Discovery offers historical search data and a deeper database.
104Keyword Discovery also allows free access to the top terms by category in theirkeyword directory, which shows some of the terms that drive traffic from somesmaller engines to sites listed in the various DMOZ categories.Keyword IntelligenceKeyword Intelligence is HitWise’s keyword research product. It is a bit moreexpensive than the other tools with a subscription fee starting at $89 a month.HitWise partners with Internet service providers and search engines that allowthem to track user behavior of 25 million users. In tracking the behavior and clicksfrom various sources, this data is likely to be cleaner than most of the other tools.Additionally, they track the actual click-through rate of the completed searches toknow what percent of searchers were happy with the results of their search queries.Having tried Keyword Intelligence, I can say it seems a bit top-heavy (only listingmost of the more generic type terms). The only keyword research tools I usuallyuse are Google Suggest, Google’s Keyword Tool, my keyword suggestion tool, andWordTracker. Some of the other tools may be useful, but I get the most valueusing all the free tools from the engines and WordTracker. What makesWordTracker well worth its price is the lateral search and thesaurus features, whichhelp you think a bit broader about keyword terms.Another great option for figuring out keywords is to use a broad match Googlecampaign and use negative words to filter out obvious bad traffic. As you collectthe various search referrals you can mine that data for deeper keyword sets.Google Traffic Estimatorhttps://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficEstimatorSandboxThe Google Traffic Estimator helps estimate how much traffic you might get fromGoogle AdWords at a given bid price. If you do not enter a bid price, they willsuggest a price that will make an ad rank #1 85% of the time.These numbers are exceptionally rough, but it should help you determine if there ismuch value in a market. If you are creating a site monetized by contextual ads, it ishard to make much money from ads going for a dime a click when you consider
105content ads typically are cheaper than search ads and Google gets a large share ofthe click cost.Google Trendshttp://www.google.com/trendsThis chart compares the volume for search engine optimization and pay-per-click.Most of the free (and paid) keyword tools only provide keyword data for the lastmonth or last few months. Google Trends shows years’ worth of data. It alsocross-references this with news mentions and cities, areas, and languages frequentlyassociated with a search term.Google Trends only works for popular queries. While the charts do not showvolume numbers, they do allow you to compare keywords, and the trend linesbetween multiple terms on the graph at the same time appear to be scaled relativeto their search volume. This tool is great for seasonal queries.
106SpyFu & KeyCompetehttp://www.spyfu.com/ & http://www.keycompete.com/KeyCompete and SpyFu both allow you to research some of the AdWords ads thatcompeting websites are buying. SpyFu also shows you some of the keywords thatcompeting sites rank for.Competitive IntelligenceAlexa is widely touted as a must-use tool by many marketing gurus.The problems with Alexa are the following:" My site is not as important as the above graph shows. If it were, Imight be retired by now. #$" Alexa does not get much direct traffic and has a limited reach with itstoolbar." A small change in site visitor count can represent a huge change inAlexa ratings." Alexa is biased toward webmaster traffic." Many times new webmasters are only tracking themselves visiting theirown site.Why do many marketing hucksters heavily promote Alexa? Usually for one of thefollowing reasons:" Ignorance" If you install the Alexa toolbar and then watch your own Alexa ratingquickly rise as you surf your own site, it is easy for me to tell you thatyou are learning quickly and seeing great results, thus it is easy to sellmy customers’ results as being some of the best on the market" If many people who visit my site about marketing install the Alexatoolbar, then my Alexa rating would go exceptionally high
107" The marketers may associate their own rise in success with theirincreasing Alexa ranking, although it happens to be more of an issue ofself-selection than a direct correlationA lower Alexa number means a greater level of traffic and the traffic drops offlogarithmically. You can fake a good Alexa score using various techniques, but if itshows your rankings in the millions, then your site likely has next to no traffic.Alexa by itself does not mean much. It simply provides a rough snapshot of whatis going on. Also, it is hard to compare sites in different industries. For example, ifI created a site about weight loss, there would be many more people searching forit than a site about SEO. Also, you shouldn’t forget the webmaster bias the toolhas, which means that my site will have a higher Alexa rating than it should. Manydays my site has ranked in the top 1,000 sites on Alexa, while other sites I own thatget more traffic are not in the top 10,000. Looking at my traffic stats I can tell youthose stats are bogus.What is Alexa good for? Just like how Google shows historical data via GoogleTrends, Alexa shows historical traffic trends for websites. That should help youzero in on key marketing mechanisms they used and when they used them. Alexabreaks down the visitor ratio between the root domain and subdomains so you cansee what parts of competing sites are heavily trafficked. Alexa also shows othersites owned by a company. This can be useful data for niche discovery.HitWise is another competitive analysis tool that has partnerships with many searchsites and Internet service providers to track user behavior. I believe Alexa isinstalled on about a million computers and HitWise tracks about 25 million users.The HitWise data is rather expensive to access for the small site webmaster, but hasgreat competitive analysis data showing historical figures, terms that drive the mosttraffic to competing sites, and information regarding from which other sitescompetitors’ traffic has come.As referenced above when mentioning their Keyword Intelligence tool, I thinksome of the HitWise data is likely going to be a bit top-heavy.
108Compete.com is similar to Alexa.Compete is a newer competitive analysis tool that shows site ranking, pageviewsper visitor, and time on site. Compete has less of a webmaster related bias thanAlexa does because Compete gets most of their data from Internet serviceproviders instead of toolbars.Quantcast offers free demographic profiling tools.Quantcast offers free demographic statistics for websites. They also show howsticky a website is, which is important to consider when buying ads on a site orcompeting in a new market.Ontology Finderhttp://www.gorank.com/seotools/ontology/Ontology Finder from goRank finds related words using the Google similaritysearch. Logically using related terms in your text may help boost your relevancy inlatent semantic indexing-type algorithms.Lexical DatabaseWordNet is a lexical keyword database for the English language. I have not used ityet, but if you are technical in nature it is probably pretty interesting and useful.Digital Point’s Keyword Suggestion Toolhttp://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/suggestion/Digital Point created a free tool that combines the Yahoo! tool and the free versionof WordTracker:The three things it lacks, compared to using WordTracker, are lateral search,thesaurus search, and search depth. The Digital Point tool can also estimatelocalized keyword traffic at the national level from Yahoo! Search, although thosenumbers are biased by rank checkers and bid management software.
109Quinturahttp://quintura.com/Free latent semantic indexing tool that visually displays keyword relationships.AdLabhttp://adlab.msn.com/Microsoft offers a number of interesting and innovative keyword tools, includingkeyword funnels.Downloadable Keyword SoftwareI usually do not recommend many downloadable software tools, but GoodKeywords is free and offers some useful features. I do not use it often, but it savesyour keyword searches and can be well worth the free download for doingpreliminary keyword research.Is it Worth Buying Keyword Research Information?Most of the major keyword databases are used by various marketers. Since manypeople look at the same data, it is likely that these terms are bid higher in pay-per-click engines and are also more competitive in the regular search results. Byaccessing smaller and lesser used databases, you may find data that other marketersmay not be using; however, most of the tools are a bit top-heavy and do not showyou many of the deeper terms.Checking Keyword CompetitionMany people will look at the number of pages listed for a phrase and think that thatis a fair estimate of competition level. It is not. That is just a measure of howmany pages have those words somewhere in the content or in links that arepointing to their pages.A better measure of competition is to search for keyword A keyword B, as that willat least give you the number of pages that have that phrase on it. You also canfurther target your competition estimation by searching Google for “allintitle:keyword” “allinanchor: keyword”. Pages that have your keyword phrases in theirtitle may be optimized and pages that have them in their inbound links stand agood chance of being fairly well optimized.SEO for FirefoxThe best way to know what your competition level is to look at the quality of thetop few sites and their link profiles. Are their sites .edu sites, old well branded sites,or other highly useful sites? Do they have many editorial links pointing at theirsite?The best way to look atthe competitive nature of akeyword is to look at thelink profiles of the toplisted sites.
110Google primarily relies upon site age and link reputation to determine relevancy forcompetitive terms. Links from government or educational sites are more likely tobe well-trusted in search results since, typically, it is harder to influence them thanthe average .com website.SEO for Firefox allows you to view many data points from directly within thesearch results to see how competitive a marketplace is. It will help you answerquestions such as the following:" How old are these sites?" Do they have quality inbound links?" Are they listed in the major web directories?" Are bloggers mentioning their site?" Are people saving their site on social bookmarking sites?Other Rough Indications of Perceived Value &Competition: Top Bid Prices & Search VolumeOther signs of a competitive marketplace are when you notice many lead-generation type websites, many exceptionally smooth user-centric highly convertingwebsites, educational institutions, government agencies, large corporations, or highbid prices on those keywords in the top pay-per-click search engines.You can get an extremely rough approximation of the value of a top listing onmajor search engines for a keyword by looking at the top listings using the Yahoo!view bid and Google Traffic Estimator tools.The Tail of SearchMany people feel the need to rank for a broad generic term and optimizeexclusively for that term. The problem with this is that around half of all searchqueries are unique each day. If you were trying to rank well for used books youshould cater to a variety of terms around that idea such as: used book store, buy usedbooks, used book search, etc.By writing naturally and answering questions, you will also include many commonterms and phrases people search for.Need Help with Keyword Selection?
111If you still need more help understanding keywords, feel free to ask me. Inaddition, Dan Thies of SEO Research Labs specializes in doing keyword researchreports for SEOs, web designers, and webmasters.Meta TagsWhen people refer to meta tags, they are talking about the meta description andmeta keyword tags. Some search engines may display the meta description as partof the search results, but the meta keywords tags generally does not appear insearch results.Is it Worth it to Create Meta Tags?I believe creating page specific meta description tags is worthwhile. I generally donot spend time creating meta keywords tags.What do Meta Tags Look Like?<meta name="keywords" content="seo book, seo ebook, seo e-book,seo tutorial, seo tutorial book, search engine optimisation,search engine optimisation tutorial"><META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Search Engine OptimizationBook is a SEO blog that provides daily search engine news. SEOBook keeps up with the latest trends in search engine algorithmchanges and provides new SEO tips.">Meta Keywords TagIf your site does not have meta keyword tags, I would probably not recommendspending the time to add them. If you add meta keywords while you are creatingpages, I wouldn’t spend more than a minute on each page. I probably wouldn’t listany more than a few of them per page.The meta keywords tag is not supported by many major search engines. While it isimportant to choose the correct keywords for your page, the meta keywords tagitself is not used by many top SEO experts.Mike Grehan interviewed Jon Glick (formerly of Yahoo! Search) and asked himabout the meta keyword tag. Jon stated that the meta keyword tag is used toinclude a page among a subset of search results, but is not used in determining therelevancy of that page for the given search term.If a word does not exist on a page, and is not in any of its inbound linkage data,then search engines such as Yahoo! may not know to include the page in searchresults unless it exists in the keyword tag. I usually do not use the meta keywordstag on my pages (as it is not usually very important), but it can help you out if thereare many different ways to say your product names and you are not creativeenough to cover the permutations in your page copy. Usually it is better to coverthe permutations in your page copy with sections like alternate part numbers, etc.The meta keywords tag istypically used to highlighta couple of the mainkeyword phrases on whicha page is focused.The meta description tagshould be a few sentencesto a paragraph of text thatuses various versions ofyour keywords anddescribes the purpose of agiven page.Meta tags are only onesmall element of currentsearch engine rankingalgorithms.
112If you use the meta keywords tag, it should be unique for each page upon whichyou place it. The keywords tag is a good place to put common misspellings,synonyms, and alternate versions of a word.Sample Uses of the Meta Keywords Tag" If you optimized a page for the keyword phrase drop shipping, you maywant to include the word dropshipping in your keywords tag, although ifthe term is that competitive, keyword tags are not likely to matter." Notice how in my above example meta keyword tag, I spelled the wordoptimization with an “s”. I targeted the spelling with a “z” on my pageand am placing “s” versions in my keywords tag. The term is likelygoing to be too competitive to compete for using just a meta tag, butmost phrases are not going to be as competitive as search engineoptimisation." Some items are model 15-M or 15M or Cannon 15-M or Cannon 15M." Prescription is often mistyped as perscription.If a term is competitive, it is going to need to occur in your page copy and/orinbound link text for you to rank well for it.Meta Description TagThe meta description tag has varying levels of relevancy in different search engines.Many search engines still support it and display it in their search results. I suggesttrying to get multiple versions of your main keywords and your main keywordsthemselves in this tag a few times.This tag should be between a sentence to a paragraph and should not appearkeyword-stuffed. The sentences should read well to the human eye since this tag isstill used in many search results pages. If you write a compelling description, itcould boost your click-through rates and, thus, deliver you more targeted traffic.Many search engines will use the meta description as part of the page abstract if theexact search term that was searched for is found in the meta description tag.Additionally, it sometimes appears in search results if the search engine cannotextract meaningful content from the page copy or if the algorithm feels the metadescription will provide a more useful presentation.A good page title and description within the search results could mean that anumber two or three listing gets more traffic than a number one listing. The metadescription tag can often be used to help craft a good search presentation for yourmost popular keywords.
113Meta Tags Are Not ArtSome people try to make meta tags sound like an art form. They are not. Thereare multiple tags that tell a search engine when to revisit or what language it is in.These tags are usually irrelevant and ignored.The only useful meta tags other than the description and keywords tags are thosetags used to PREVENT search engines from indexing your content. Since weusually want our content seen, I only wrote about the tags I typically use.The Truth about Meta TagsMeta tags are only one small part of search engine algorithms. In major searchengines, each of the following is typically far more important than meta tags:" Link popularity and link reputation" Site age" Page title" Page copyMeta description tags are still important because they help you differentiateyourself from the competition and boost your clickthrough rates.Robots Exclusion StandardWhen primitive robots were first created, some of them would crash servers byrequesting too many pages too quickly. A robots exclusion standard was crafted toallow you to tell any robot (or all of them) that you do not want some of yourpages indexed or that you do not want your links followed. You can do this via ameta tag on the page copy<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">or create a robots.txt file that gets placed in the root of your website. The goal ofeither of these methods is to tell the robots where NOT to go. The official robotsexclusion protocol document is located at the following URL.http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/exclusion.htmlYou do not need to use a robots.txt file. By default, search engines will index yoursite. The robot.txt file goes in the root level of your domain using robots.txt as thefile name.This allows all robots to index everything:User-agent: *Disallow:This disallows all robots to your site:
114User-agent: *Disallow: /You also can disallow a folder or a single file in the robots txt file. This disallows afolder:User-agent: *Disallow: /projects/This disallows a file:User-agent: *Disallow: /cheese/please.htmlOne problem many dynamic sites have is sending search engines multiple URLswith nearly identical content. If you have products in different sizes and colors, orother small differences, it is likely that you could generate lots of near-duplicatecontent, which will prevent search engines from fully indexing your sites.If you place your variables at the start of your URLs, then you can easily block allof the sorting options using only a few disallow lines. For example, the followingwould block search engines from indexing any URLs that start with ‘cart.php?size’or ‘cart.php?color’.User-agent: *Disallow: /cart.php?sizeDisallow: /cart.php?colorNotice how there is no trailing slash at the end of the above disallow lines. Thatmeans the engines will not index anything that starts with that in the URL. If therewere a trailing slash, search engines would only block a specific folder.If the sort options were at the end of the URL, you would either need to create anexceptionally long robots.txt file or place the robots noindex meta tags inside thesort pages. You also can specify any specific user agent, such as Googlebot, insteadof using the asterisk wild card. Many bad bots will ignore your robots txt filesand/or harvest the blocked information, so you do not want to use robots.txt toblock individuals from finding confidential information.Googlebot also supports wildcards in the robots.txt. The following would stopGooglebot from reading any URL that includes the string ‘sort=’ no matter wherethat string occurs in the URL:User-agent: GooglebotDisallow: /*sort=In 2006 Yahoo! also added robots.txt wildcard support.Free Meta Tag GeneratorI offer a free page title meta tag generator here. I wrote general tips on that toolspage to help you create your title and meta tags. Find it here:http://tools.seobook.com/meta-medic/
115Page Title Tag Done WrongWhy the Page Title Tag is ImportantWhen the Web was created, it was created around the idea of pages and linksbeing the fundamental units of data. The page title tag is one of the mostimportant attributes on the page. It is the first thing that search engines show sitevisitors about your site, and it is the text of the link that site visitors click on whenthey visit your site from search engines. Most search engines place much moreweight on the page title tag text than any other on page element.For some non-competitive terms a good page title alone can land a page a topsearch results.First of all, we will cover bad ways to write page title tag text:#$ “Get ur drugz here!!!!! paxil, prozac, Zoloft buy now, Internet pharmacy,Viagra, pills on wholesales, antidepressants, weight loss, Phentermine…”%$ Untitled document (comes from not putting in a title tag at all)&$ Site > category > sub-category > item$ “Welcome to Fred’s store” (from page title tag)($ “Welcome to Fred’s store” (title of the entire site and from the page titletag)The goal of the page title is to give search engines and readers a brief description ofwhat that page is exactly about.Problems with the Examples1. It is true that the page can be about any specific topic (evenprescription drugs or casino stuff or pornography), but the title shouldnot be a loose array of selected somewhat similar terms. You couldpick any topic and focus on it, but not on a topic range. If you focustoo widely with the page title you dilute the value placed on each word,and, in the rare event the page does rank, you may be sending visitorsto a page that is not relevant to their needs, and thus does not convert.A large part of effective SEO is ensuring that visitors land on the mostrelevant page possible.2. Many pages on the web do not even have a title tag. Unless one wastrying to list well for untitled document, not having a title tag makes ithard to generate any traffic. In the Yahoo! Search index, there are overtwenty million pages sporting the “untitled document” title. Theywould get much more traffic if they titled their documents.
1163. Many content management systems are terrible for SEO purposes. Thewords at the front of the page title are the most important. If the firstfew words of every page are not very descriptive, it does not giveengines much to determine the difference between pages. Many spamsite generators start page titles with the same words in every page title.Make sure your page titles are unique to each page, with the mostdescriptive words at or near the start of the page title.4. First of all, people probably have no idea what Fred’s store is. IsFred’s store a hardware store? A discount shoe store? A Viagra store?You just don’t know. Neither do search engines.Placing salutations or unnecessary document references in the title killsthe keyword weighting of the title. I always say “Welcome to…lowrankings.” Just for fun, I did a search on Yahoo! to show how manysites had the following in their page title:#$ “welcome to…” (close to 30 million)%$ “home page” (over 15 million)&$ “wecome” & “welcom” (thousands of entries each)5. Notice there is no difference between example #4 and example #5. Atitle should be a page title or document title. The title should not bethe site title. If, for branding purposes, you feel you should place thesite title in the title tag of every page, it is advisable that you place it atthe end of the title—that is, unless you are so big that people are likelyto search for your name already (Nike, Pepsi, Coke…). The pageitself is a fundamental unit of data, not the website!Page Title Tag Done RightSince different algorithms look for different things, there is no such thing as aperfect title, but there are signs of a good one. We saw how to do it wrong, so howdo you do it right? Well, your title should have your keywords in it, it should bereadable to prospects, and should evoke an emotional response.Your target keyword phrase should be at or near the beginning of your page title.Let’s pretend this e-book is a page and we need to title the document. Using thekeyword suggestion tools above I would look up some relevant terms.All searches were performed on Yahoo! search term suggestion tool and results arefor September 2003:" seo 101,543" search engine optimization 56,947" search engine marketing 14,448" search engine marketing news 267The page title is a page bypage thing, not a site bysite thing.Usually you want to leadyour page title with yourprimary keywords for thatgiven page.
117" seo book 0 (update: within a few months of creating this domain,Yahoo! started serving hundreds of ads a month for this name due inpart to me heavily branding the site name)" seo tutorial 70" search engine optimization tutorial 59Remember that search volume alone does not tell you whether or not the termwould bring in targeted traffic. Seo, for example, is a generic term also inflated byrank checkers and is a common Japanese name, so the number of targeted andpotentially profitable seo searchers is not as high as the number indicates.Some SEO experts frequently compare the page title to the title of a book. Mostmajor search algorithms place far greater weight on the page title than on otherpage content. Adding unique page titles to a trusted site that did not havethem can easily double search traffic.Chose Multiple KeywordsI was not in much of a rush with SEOBook.com to achieve top rankings, as Ialready had other well ranking sites. I was going to think big with the title.Eventually I wanted to rank well for search engine optimization and SEO. I knew thatwould take a while though (a year or a few years). I should have been able toalmost immediately rank well for SEO book. (By the time I was done writing this, Ialready did.)A Good Title for This PageA good page title for this book would then be “Search Engine OptimizationTutorial e-book: SEOBook.com.”This e-book page itself will never rank well in search results, since I do not wantsearch engines to spider it. If Google gave you a free link to my e-book, then youprobably would not want to pay for it. I used a robots exclusion tag on it, andmove it anytime anyone links to it.SEOBook.com covers news topics daily, too. The page title of my home pageinitially was “SEOBook.com - SEO e-book, Search Engine Optimization Tips, &Search Engine Marketing News Blog.” In this title I am actually trying to do agood bit of branding. Since the domain name matched exactly what I wanted torank for and I spent thousands of hours and dollars branding that name, I push ithard.The domain name also matches exactly my keywords without being repulsivelylong and dash- or comma-ridden. It is easy and simple enough to remember, plus,if this book does well enough, more and more people will search for SEO Book.Branding Title Update
118After about a year with the above title, I started getting more search queries for myname and my site name. I eventually changed the home page title to “Aaron Wall’sSEOBook.com” to make the site seem more official and for personal brandingpurposes.The original title may have also been a bit longer than necessary. Usually it is bestto keep them at or under about ten words.Keep in mind that the home page of a strong site can be more brand oriented, butas you get deeper into a site it makes sense to place more emphasis on matchingkeywords than on branding in the page titles.Chose Terms of Different Difficulty LevelsMy general rule for the page title is to include at least one competitive and one non-competitive term. In less than a month, the home page of SEOBook.com waslisted #1 on Yahoo! (Inktomi back then) and #1 on Google for seo book. Rankingfor Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a much harder task, but I was ranking forSEO within nine months and it took about 3 years to get in the top 20 in Googlefor search engine optimization.Another good trick for the title might be to use two similar overlaying ideas. If it’shard to list well for either of the components of the whole, you typically can still gettop rankings for the searches that mix the terms together. Eventually, as you buildyour linking campaign, you can hope to pick up one or both of the original terms.A good example of this might be a site that is selling Dragon Naturally Speakingsoftware. Dragon Naturally Speaking is medical transcription software. If you usea title such as “Dragon Naturally Speaking Medical Transcription Software,” it canhelp you rank well for the oddball mixed-up searches such as Dragon MedicalSoftware.Sometimes you can also place a strong call to action in the title, which will helpboost click-through rate.Think Along the Buying CycleWhile it might be good for me to rank at # 1 for search marketing, it is doubtful thatpeople searching for that term are immediately interested in buying. When aperson searches for search engine marketing service company in San Diego, there is muchmore express intent implied in that search.Longer search terms typically have less competition and convert better.This is the real secret to effective on-the-page SEO. Use different pages tooptimize for different terms.If you are using pay-per-click advertising, the long specific keyword phrases willusually be far cheaper than some of the generic untargeted terms. That is why it isimportant to focus different pages on different terms versus focusing your site on
119one generic term. Not only is there less competition, and more stable income, butthere is better consumer appeal on each page, which leads to higher conversionrates.Page Title and Click-Through RateA good page title and URL can increase your rankings and double or triple yourclick-through rate. You want to make sure your page title is especially made forhuman consumption and not just some random ugly keyword-stuffed string.Certainly get your primary keywords in there, but make sure the title is readabletoo.Writing Titles to Spread IdeasIf you write an editorial website with many readers you may want to forgo placingtoo much emphasis on keywords in the title and instead write a catchy orcontroversial title that makes the story more appealing to read and easier to link.Search engines follow people. If enough people link to your documents and givesigns that the document is important, then search engines will still rank it even ifthe page title does not exactly match the target keywords.Internal LinkingCategoriesMost sites do not usually have more than about a half dozen major categories. Justhow I gave the example of a theme pyramid earlier, your site should be brokendown from the broadest topic on the home page to covering more niche topics asyou work your way through the site.You can break the site structure down into categories:" Product or service type" Problems you solve" Types of people who have the problems you help solveSearch algorithms rely heavily on internal linking structures to determine theimportance of documents on your site. The pages that you link to most frequentlyare the pages you are telling search engines are your most important pages.On your home page, you may want to strongly feature your categories in a mannerthat helps prospects self-select their path through your site. Each category and subcategory should have local navigation that helps to support its structure.If you have areas where one category or choice could offend others in that samebasket (for instance, gay dating and an option for a group of people who
120traditionally hate gay people), then you should not show the options that mightoffend one group to the other.If you are trying to get your brand known, you may also want to consider creatingmultiple brands if the friction between consumer sets is too great. It is impossiblefor one site to appeal to everyone.Although it is beyond the scope of knowledge necessary for most SEOs orwebmasters, if you are interested in algorithmic research, BlockRank is a well-citedresearch paper discussing internal linkage patterns for more efficient PageRankcomputation.Anchor TextWhen linking between your documents, you should use the words for which youwant to rank well in the anchor text.<a href="page.htm">Anchor text</a>If you cannot use descriptive anchor text, some search engines may still place someweighting on link titles (although not as much as anchor text).<a href="blah.htm" title="descriptive text">Click here</a>You also can make up for slightly under-descriptive site navigation links byproviding descriptive footer text link navigation.A large criteria in search engine rankings is the text used to link to a document.Sometimes it is hard to control how others link to you, but you can always do agood job of providing great links to yourself using internal site linking.Use Descriptive Anchor TextWhen possible, you want to refer to your documents using words similar to thoseexpressed in the title. Let’s say I have a page about 5 HTP that is linking to a pageabout the history of 5 HTP. I would not use the word history to create the link. Iwould use the phrase 5 HTP history or history of 5 HTP in the link as it would helpthe relevancy of both pages.Click HereSometimes it is necessary to use a “click here” link, but most times you can getaround it. You cannot always write a link that helps the relevancy of the page thatit’s on, but almost always you can write a good descriptive link that contains akeyword or keyword phrase that will help the page the link is pointing at.Having a few click here links scattered throughout your site may make your linkageprofile look more natural, but most of your links should describe what is on theother end of the link.Descriptive internal textlinks can help searchengines understand whatyour site is about.
121Images as LinksI believe it is usually better to use text as links than images, but if you use an imageensure you place a descriptive image alt tag on it.<img src="http://www.site.com/blah.jpg" alt="5 HTP History.">If you use image navigation links, it is advisable to place descriptive text links at thebottom of the page to help search engines figure out the relevancy of your pages.Spamming Alt TagsImage links are likely not weighted as heavily as text links because they are moresusceptible to spam. Examine the following:<alt="5HTP 5-HTP 5 Hydroxytryptophan 5hydroxytryptophan 5HYDROXYTRYPTOPHAN">Using an alt tag incorrectly as done above can hurt more than help. The searchengines are generally rather liberal, but it also does not look appealing to the eye tosee that long string on when someone rolls over the image. What’s even worse isthat some browsers will read that random string to the computer user and your sitewill confuse the hell out of ’em!Yahoo! actively edits their search results. Google employs remote quality raters. Ifeither of them see signs of artificial ranking manipulation, they may remove yoursite from their index. Some competitors can turn you in and get you de-listed aswell.Linking to Page AnchorsOn longer pages you can use text to link within the same document. Frequently,FAQ pages have links at the top of the page that link to the answers of theassociated questions. These links look like this:<a href="#anchor1">FAQ Anchor Text</a>You then place the anchor you are linking to somewhere else on that same page.<a name="anchor1"></a>Broken Links in Your SiteMany directory editors and site visitors will quickly grow disinterested with yoursite if it is full of broken links. Some directory editors will run a link checker onyour site in the background while they review the content. The Internet is dynamicand ever-changing, and some of your links may break from month to month. Irecommend checking your site for broken links before submitting it to any of themajor directories. Xenu Link Sleuth is a free downloadable link-checking programthat alerts you to broken links and can even help you quickly build a site map.
122I try to look through my site for broken links at least once every few months.When Broken Links are OKA good thing about the blog format of this site is that I do not need to go back andfix broken links as they fall into the archives. If your site is a clearly dated news sitethen you do not need to go back to edit all of your links as sites around the webchange.Broken Links as a Signal of Low QualityIf most of the links on your site are broken or link to spammy sites, then searchengines may place less authority on your documents full of broken links. If mostof the links are broken, then how well can they trust the current page content? Adocument that links to bad neighborhoods or non existing pages probably offersoutdated advice.Dangling NodesMost, if not all, of your pages should be linked to from other pages and link toother pages on your site. If a page does not link to other pages, then it preventssearch engine spiders from being able to use that page’s link authority to help getother pages indexed.Relative versus Absolute LinksSome people link internally using relative links like this:<a href="../">Anchor Text</a>Others link using absolute links like this:<a href="http://www.site/page.htm">Anchor Text</a>Search engines convert relative links to their absolute locations prior to assigningthe page a document ID number. It is preferable to use absolute URLs, but searchengines should not mess up assigning a proper URL to documents linked to viarelative links.The big downsides to using relative links are the following:" Content Theft. If people steal your content and repost it to theirsites, it may be worth using absolute links so you get some linkcredit/value out of them stealing your content." Hijacking. If someone tries to hijack your site (make a search enginethink your site exists at their URL), they can get many pages on yoursite if all your URLs are relative. If you use absolute links, they cannotget many pages from your site.
123" Canonical URL issues. If a search engine indexes your site fromboth the www version and non-www version, then duplicate contentissues may result.Canonical URLsSearch engines may index your website or web pages under multiple URLs if yoursite or internal linkage data is not structured properly. Here are some tips to keepthis from happening:" WWW versus Non-WWW. Make sure you use absolute links andpoint them at a consistent version of the site. If your site is beingindexed under the www version and the non-www version, 301redirect the less important version of the site at the other location." Page versus Other Sites. Try not to use too much content thatappears on other indexed sites. If your site is new, by default you willhave less authority than most other sites with the same content, thusyou will not rank for it due to duplicate content filters." Site versus Page. When you link back to your home page make sureyou are linking to www.site.com and not something likesite.com/index.html. This will ensure your internal and external linkauthority focus on one URL. If you split up your link popularity, youare splitting your votes." Dynamic CMS Errors. Some content management systems get thesame content or near duplicate content indexed at multiple URLs.There are many ways to look out for this, and I could write thirty pageson the topic, but make sure that as you surf through your site you donot have printer friendly versions or other similar versions of yourcontent getting indexed. Also, make sure that you are not addingarbitrary unnecessary variables to your URLs and that you cannotaccess the same page at multiple URL addresses." Error Codes. Make sure that when you go to a URL that does notexist on your site that it sends a 404 error code. If you use any internalredirects, use 301s instead of 302s if you want the pages to get indexed.Links Within Your ContentDon’t rely exclusively on your site navigation to drive your internal linkage data.People will be far more inclined to follow links in the content area of your site, thususing one article to drive the linkage data for other articles allows you to helpcontrol the visitor path through your site. It also allows you to mix up the anchortext you are using to describe the pages on your site.There are three big reasons as to why links in content are important:" Self Selection. Users get to select which path they are interested in,which allows you to split your content up and quickly guide them towhere they want to go.
124" Active Engagement. When people click links, they are going fromreaders of your site to people actively engaged in the content." Sense of Control. When we click a link we feel we are in control ofwhere we are going, that we made the choice to go to the nextlocation. Navigation and ads can feel like ads.You may also want to create a new section that is used to point links at pages thatare new on your website. For example, many blogs or news sites feature theirnewest content on their homepage.Linking Out to Quality SitesMany people are afraid to link out to related resources throughout their copy.Many search engines grade pages not only based upon their copy and inboundlinks, but also upon the pages that they link to. All of your outbound links shouldnot be link trades in one corner of your site. Try to naturally mix to quality sites inyour site architecture wherever it makes sense.A few years ago, in a forum thread, Google’s Matt Cutts said:Of course, folks never know when were going to adjust our scoring. Itspretty easy to spot domains that are hoarding PageRank; that can be justanother factor in scoring. If you work really hard to boost your authority-like score while trying to minimize your hub-like score, that sets your siteapart from most domains. Just something to bear in mind.And Chartreuse made a post about why Paris Hilton became so popularThough she hired a publicist to get her on Page 6, she never reallytalked about herself. She talked about other people. She wouldmention the designers of her clothes, the club she was going to, whomade the sweater for her dog, all without any guarantee of any return.She just threw out links.It didn’t take long for designers and club owners to realize that ParisHilton was a walking billboard. So they embraced her. She paidattention to them, so they paid attention to her.Linking out to good sites helps you in multiple ways:" Linking out to other related sites throughout your copy makes your sitelook like a more natural part of the web. It will give you a rankingboost in clustering search engines (such as Ask.com). Other majorsearch engines are also believed to factor outbound links into theirranking algorithms." Linking out to related quality sites or pages offers your users additionaluseful information. If you refer them to good information, they will be
125more inclined to associate you with that good information and many ofthem will remember where they came from." I am the most relevant thing in my own life. Your site visitors andpeople you link to will be more inclined to link to your site if youprovide a wealth of good information and also link out to additionalrelevant information." By linking out to other relevant sites, it does not force you to have torecreate the entire Web to have a useful website." The people who you link to may end up returning the favor down theroad. This is especially true with social sites like weblogs.Some example sites that are easy to link to are the following:" Wikipedia article about your topic" Useful .edu or .gov pages about your topic" DMOZ or Yahoo! category about your topic" Some of the better informational or non-competitive sites ranking inthe search results for your keywords or related phrases" Sites that are authorities on your topic or a topic slightly broader; forexample, SEOBook.com links many times at SearchEngineWatch.com" Controversial content in your field or related fields.NavigationEffective navigation should let a user know:" What site they are on" Where they are in that site" Where they have beenNavigation and Search EnginesGood navigation helps search engines better understand the site structure andhelps site users. Typically, your most important documents will have the greatestnumber of inbound links.Often, people will use tabs or images for their links that have a minimal amount ofdescriptive text in them. You can offset this by using descriptive text links in thepage footer. You can see an example of this technique athttp://www.search-marketing.info. It is common to have one set of navigationthat is used by site visitors and another that is used by search engine spiders.Proper navigation also gives you descriptive internal links. A popular technique fordoing this is using bread crumb navigation.
127The original definition of sitemaps was a way for both users and search engines tobe able to find content on your site. Near the end of 2006, search engines alsocreated an xml based sitemap protocol that could be used to help alert searchengines to new content on your site and the relative importance of each page.However, it is important to note that actively linking within your main site structureand building inbound linkage data will carry far more weight in helping engines findand rank your content.PaginationThis is not something most webmasters need to worry about, but some largecatalog sites organize items by genre and then list choices alphabetically. If youhave a vast number of related choices and are creating a navigation route that ismore likely to be useful to bots than humans, you may want to link to all of thechoices on one page or provide links to each of the additional pages near thebottom of the first page.If you only have one “next link” on each page, then each time a spider indexes apage, you are sending them to a page with less and less link popularity. This maynot be a big deal if you have other paths for spiders to search through your site, butif this is a primary indexing mechanism, you cannot expect them to spider through25 consecutive pages of items starting with the letter “S” if they only get one ofthose links at a time until they index the next page.Entry Pages that ConvertPoor pagination and other similar problems sometimes cause large dynamic sites towaste much of their link authority on pages that provide search spiders with littleunique content or value. If these pages rank in the search results over morefocused pages on your site, then you may have a much lower conversion rate thanwould otherwise be attainable.Optimizing Your Page CopyOptimize Each PageOne of the most important things to understand is that each page is its own unitand has its own ranking potential and its own relevant keywords. Usually a homepage has more value than the other pages, since it is typically the easiest place tobuild links to. Home pages should generally be optimized for the most relevantcompetitive keyword phrases in your market that you feel you would be able torank for. Interior pages should be optimized for other relevant phrases that relateto the content of each page.There are many things to optimize on each page. We already went through how tochoose your keywords, page titles, and meta tags. Within each page, there is alsocontent that can be optimized.
128On-the-Page Optimization Only Goes So FarWhen optimizing a page for competitive terms, the bulk of the ranking algorithmwill be based upon link analysis. Effective link building has no limit to howmuch it can help your rankings.Some people think that more is better, and more is better, and more is better. Thisis not true with on-the-page keyword density, and additionally, some searchalgorithms may discount artificial links that are created in quick bursts.The algorithms for grading page copy are based on a bell curve. Some pages willhave near-perfect term weights. But after some point, added placement of certainwords does not make a page any more relevant; in fact, it can make a page becomeless relevant.Imagine a page that starts its page title, meta description, first header, firstparagraph, and second paragraph all with the same word. Does that sound likenatural quality information? Or perhaps more like someone trying to game therelevancy algorithms?So the point is, you have to mix it up. Sure, make the page title ultra-relevant, butdon’t forget to use a few subheaders that might not be keyword rich, and don’tforget to use modifiers and related terms in some of your subheaders andthroughout the page copy.The more your writing sounds like it was crafted for humans instead of bots,generally the better it will rank. Search engines want to rank high-qualityinformation. Think news articles more than optimized pages. If your contentlooks more like a newspaper article than a piece of obviously SEOed text, you areon the right track.Each search engine has its own algorithms, and they do not all align with oneanother. Thus, the most effective way to improve your rankings on all searchengines will be via link building, but proper page structure and on-the-pageoptimization play important roles in gaining targeted inbound traffic, especially fornon-competitive keyword phrases or in search engines that rely heavily on pagecontent.Text is ImportantAlmost every page is going to have navigation and design elements. It’s impossibleto have just usability or copywriting or SEO; you need them all. Building a pageand a site is a balancing act. For search engines, the portions of the page thatmatter most, and that you have the most control over, are the text parts. Someplaces try SEO so hard that the copy reads like rubbish. Obviously, that is nogood. Traffic means nothing if people do not convert.Use Keywords in Headings
129Use keywords in headings and subheadings throughout the page—this headingshould capture the person’s attention and tell them they are in the right place.Think of these headings like you would a heading in a newspaper; a classic, straightSEO approach might be<H1>Optimize Web Pages - Learn SEO Copywriting</H1>You may wish to use something with a call to action as well. That would appearmore like<H1>Learn SEO Copywriting Techniques that Drive KillerConverting Search Engine Traffic </H1>.Heading tags go from H1 to H6, with the biggest tags being the smallest number(i.e., H1 renders the biggest font). You can change how the text appears with CSS.I usually try to get some of my primary and secondary keyword phrases and similarphrases in my page heading as well as in many subheadings. The rest of the pagecopy is usually written with sales conversion in mind, and I do not pay too muchattention to optimizing it for search engines. Natural writing should cause you touse your keywords throughout the text.I recommend using a single H1 tag on each page. I also try to use many H2 or H3tags to break up the page copy and help structure the data.Break the page into subgroupsh1 (consisting of primary keywords and a modifier or call to action) Only use oneh1 tag per page and do not bold or emphasize it. It probably works best if itis slightly different than your page title.Examples of subheadings can be as follows:h2 (similar subtopic idea with some related keyword phrases in it)paragraph blah blah blahh2 (another subtopic with some semantically related words)paragraph blah blahparagraph blah blah blahh2 (Many subtopics do not have the same keywords as the page title andmain heading. If you are writing for conversion, not all of them will,which is also good for SEO. If your page title and your headingscontain the exact same keyword phrase it may look like an attempt tomanipulate search relevancy. Mix it up. Keep it natural looking.)h2 (Don’t forget to change word order and use plural and singularversions)unordered list
130paragraph blah blahh2 (another subtopic focused on another niche)paragraph blah blah blahparagraph blah blah blahUsually the subheadings will focus on a keyword phrase that is slightly morespecific than the main heading.The next example set is going to contain a bit of self-promotion, but that is notreally the intent. It is hard for me to think of structuring content without thinkingabout a topic, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to tell people to copy any ofmy pages or client sites.If I wrote a page about applying for a job, the page title and headers might looksomething like this:<title>Search Engine Optimization Guru Looks to Help 1 LuckyClient</title><h1>Online Search Engine Optimization Expert for Hire</h1><h2>Aaron Wall: Your SEO Expert</h2><h2>History in the Search Community</h2><h3>Author of SEO Book: A Well-Known SearchBlog</h3> content<h3>Top Selling Marketing Book Author</h3><h3>Speaker at Search Engine Strategies &WebmasterWorld</h3> content<h3>Directory Editor</h3> content<h3>Moderator at Many Professional DiscussionForums</h3> content<h2>Search Engine Ranking Achievements</h2><h3>Search Marketing ROI Results</h3> content<h3>Client Testimonials</h3> contentDescriptive, reader-focused subheadings improve the usability of your website,both for search engines and human visitors. Remember that the headings helpstructure the information, but you shouldn’t overdo it. If you start doing thingslike placing all your content in an H1 tag, bolding the H1 tags, or bolding alloccurrences of your keywords, then you are doing things that would give searchengines a reason to discount your page. Thus, the combined effect will be morelikely to hurt your rankings on multiple fronts, since your content may look lessappealing to search engines and site visitors will be less likely to buy from it or linkto it.Place Your Keywords Where it Makes Sense" Place keywords in paragraphs.
131" Place keywords in heading tags." Place keywords in img alt tags." When the word is part of a small statement making a specific point,you may bold it or italicize it." You may also want to include your keywords a few times in bulletedlists." When possible, place the keywords in links, and don’t forgetnavigation." Don’t focus on just one core keyword over and over again. Mix inmany variations." The key focus of the page should be on readability. If the page doesnot make sense to human eyes, then it is no good for a search engineand it will not make sales. You want to use keywords often, but notto the point where it sounds like you are writing for the search engineand not the user." When in doubt, ignore the keywords, write your article for people, andthen come back to it and make sure you covered all the importanttopics you wanted to cover.Use VariationSince latent semantic indexing-type algorithms may be able to detect unnaturalcopy that lacks related terms and will score hyper-focused repetitive unnatural textas being less relevant, it is important to use some mixture of terms and phrases (i.e.,in some spots you want to use terms related to your keywords and not just yourkeywords).If you took your core keyword out of the page copy and replaced it with blanks,would humans to be able to understand what the document was about? If theycould, you are in great shape.Be CreativeThere are so many creative ways to mix in your keywords. Again, assuming wewanted to target eat cheddar, we could write the following:“Cheddar is one of my favorite foods to eat. Cheddar is…”Notice how the keywords overlap and are in different sentences. There are manydifferent ways to get your keywords in the content.Spread Your Keywords Throughout the PageSome of the more recent algorithms may have the ability to look for naturallanguage patterns. In natural language, the different words in a keyword phrase willappear spread apart from one another.
132To boost your rankings in these algorithms, you will want to use the word eat insome spots and cheddar in other spots. Often your keywords will appear next toeach other naturally. Some words like peanut and butter often occur together, but ingeneral, all of your occurrences of the keywords should not be together unless thatis how they would appear in a newspaper article about your topic.Keywords at the Top of the PageKeywords near the top of the page, and before your navigation, may be weightedmore heavily and enhance your search engine rankings.Search engines care about the order the content appears in the page code morethan on the screen. Reorganizing the text can easily be accomplished by writing asentence above your branding images or through using a floating DIV or anotherCSS technique. When using tables, some people use a blank cell technique to makethe search engines see the body content before navigation. If search enginesweight where the keywords are on the page, then they most likely use the order ofthe words in the actual page source code and not the visual display of the pages.Microsoft did research into visual page segmentation, and Google hired some leadFirefox programmers away from Mozilla. As computer clock cycles get moreefficient, if they can improve relevancy by looking closer at how words appear ondisplayed pages, they will factor that into their algorithms.Naming File PathsUsually, you want to use short file names and folder names so that the data is easyto transmit using various means (such as e-mail). Long file paths may look a bitspammy to search engine editors or searchers looking through search results.Generally, you want to use one to a few keywords in each filename or folder. Uselowercased file paths because some directories & content management systems donot handle upper-case filenames. Separate words with a hyphen (-) between eachword. If you leave blank spaces, it will look strange in the address bar and if youuse underscores (_), some search engines will not be able to parse the individualwords in each file name.Some people will be more likely to click relevant looking URLs. Some will citeyour website using the URL as the link text. If you use descriptive URLs, thatshould help improve your traffic and rankings. If your site is already built and well-indexed, there is probably little reason to change filenames, but if you are making anew site, it is worth the time it takes to use descriptive filenames.Building ContentSame Old Stuff
133Creating an extremely useful web-based tool, or paying a programmer to create onefor you, is one of the most effective ways to build content, which will, in turn, helpyou build natural linkage data. Writing articles will also help you build up your linkpopularity.Many websites blindly add large sums of free content to their site because theythink it will help them for low cost. The problems with adding exact copies oflow-quality articles are the following:" Since the articles exist elsewhere, yours probably will not rank as wellas one of the other copies on the web." low-quality content reflects poorly on you and wastes your link equitythat could be going toward getting unique content pages ranked." Many people add unfocused garbage to their site, which loses theinterest of their visitors." Some unscrupulous parties copy the contents of other websiteswithout asking. Tools such as CopyScape make this easy to detect,although legal enforcement is cost prohibitive and too time consumingfor most publishers." Many tools scrape various RSS feeds and mix them to create manycontent pages. Content generation tools such as these will requiresearch engines to place even greater trust on linkage data.Some people also clutter up the Internet with search result screen scrapers andother auto content generation crap. I am generally against generating low-qualityautomated content, as I feel it lowers the quality and functionality of the web as awhole, though I suppose some people may find it effective for generating traffic (atleast until their sites get banned).Comparison ContentMany times, people are interested in the difference between two similar orcompeting products. I created pages comparing Overture (now known as Yahoo!Search Marketing) to Google AdWords, and many people search to find the pagescomparing and contrasting those two systems.Content FormatSometimes the format of information is as important as its quality. By distributinginformation in different formats, it might become easier to pick up inbound links.For example, good blog posts are often viral marketing link magnets.Radio is not very competitive in many markets. SEO Rockstars and SEO Radioare a few SEO-related radio programs that pick up many inbound links. There isone quarterly print magazine about search marketing; as such, it is easy for them togain links because they are the only people distributing content in that format.Ideal Content
134If you can create something that becomes a well-cited authoritative work in yourfield, it is worth far more than creating dozens of low-quality pages. The authoritygranted by one well-referenced document will help boost the rankings of everypage on your site.It is a good idea to create day-to-day content, but it is smart from a businessperspective to also try to create a few industry-standard pieces of work. Someexamples of well cited things I have done:" Free comprehensive glossary" Many free SEO tools" 101 ways to build links in 2006" Industry event calendar" This bookDeep Linkable ContentIf you build a large website and large brand, it is a good idea to try to create niche-specific, high-quality content that many people will directly reference/link to. Thiswill help search engines spider your sites better and help them understand that yoursite is an authority on much more than just whatever is on the home page.Free Decent ContentThere is a ton of good, free content out there, but you need to do a bit of researchto find it. If you are building a long-term business, quality is usually moreimportant than quantity. Creative reintegration of other content with some freshnew content or other features can make your site much more useful to your sitevisitors, but you do not want to push it too far, as duplicate content filters improvedaily." If you sell products, make sure you grab the official specifications fromthe manufacturers." Incorporate user feedback into the pages. These can add value to yourshopping experience and give you unique content." When you write articles, remember to quote and link to websites oftopical authorities." Incorporate product recommendations and related/compatible itemsinto pages." If you have a web-related idea or are researching the history ofsomething that may have appeared on the web, you can view what asite looked like in the past from the Internet Archive. You may not beable to use the old web copy, but screenshots might be acceptable andhow things change certainly makes for good article information." Integrate topic-specific RSS feeds into your website." Ask a friend to write an article for you or interview an industry expert.
135" Search for articles on your topic in search engines. In addition, youmay want to look at article/e-zine directories and glance at industryhub sites to see if the authors allow you to repost their articles. Manypeople who know a decent amount about marketing will let you posttheir articles in exchange for a link back to their site." Sometimes, it is worth the cost to hire a professional writer. Some ofmy friends hire people to write press releases and articles to promoteeach new site they create." Common Content and Copyleft are two projects that aim to help thefree flow of information by allowing people to reuse various registeredcontent. Yahoo! created a free Creative Commons search." Content from prior to 1923 should usually be usable. Material from1923 to 1963 may be usable depending on whether or not it wascopyrighted, published with a copyright notice, and whether or not thecopyright was renewed." The U.S. Government has a bunch of free copy on a variety of topics.When in doubt, check with Copyright.gov or your local laws. A varietyof government resources are referenced at the end of the chapter.Integrating Consumer Generated MediaIt can seem a bit hard to optimize pages that consist of content created by others,but there can be some blessings in letting others add content to your site." Spelling errors become more acceptable. If some of your usersmisspell a word here or there, I doubt that will hurt your credibility asmuch as if your own internal content was full of spelling errors." Consumers will tend to generate the most feedback on your mostpopular offerings.When you collect feedback on your site, if you let feedback givers rate the qualityof an item, it might be a good idea to create a feedback page for each rating type.This will help improve conversion rates if spiders index pages that are consistent intheme and message.You also want to make sure you are not running into pagination errors where yourequire spiders to jump through many hoops to index all your feedback. Anysorting option you give site visitors should be given to search bots as well, but asstatic text links.It also makes sense to include more content per feedback page instead of less. Ifyou have fewer feedback pages, then you do not need to index as many pages.Many long-tail searches will match different words left by different writers. Forexample, one of my sites with feedback about medication and depressionfrequently matches searches for things like <drugname> side effects libido and orgasms.One person who left feedback mentioned how it affected their libido, whileanother mentioned how it left them with orgasm-related issues. Instead of listing
136five or ten feedback messages per page, by offering 20 to 50 feedback messages perpage, it creates a much larger overlap of relevant text, and as a result, search engineswill find the page relevant.Other Content CreationSometimes it is worth it to spend a little money to help build your site up. Manypeople can find college students or people from Craigslist and pay them about $10-$12 an hour to create content for their sites.Find a copywriter for hire at a site such as Elance or have a more expensivecopywriter ghost write an article for you. Make sure you get the exclusive rights tothe article if you do not want them to use it on other sites or newsletters later.Some sites like Constant Content make it quick, cheap, and easy to buy articles,tutorials, and reviews.You can buy content from various sites that specifically create content for sale byfinding out who creates news in your industry or by searching for syndicatedcontent providers from a search engine or directory.Automated Content CreationUse of, or improper use of, any of the following tools can drastically increase thechances your site will be removed from search indexes. If you are new to the weband are running a limited number of websites, it is recommended that you avoidusing these types of tools—especially on any site that is a main source of income.Most automated content creation tools create content that reads like rubbish.Some tools such as Traffic Equalizer scrape search results and publish the results asweb pages on your site.RSS Equalizer can be used to create pages from related RSS feeds. Some peoplemix this data to create well-themed and useful web pages. In some regions the webpages created by RSS Equalizer and Traffic Equalizer may be illegal due tocopyright laws.ArticleBot is a tool that creates many semantically sound articles from a singlearticle.I have not yet used any of the automated content creation tools, but some of myfriends have stated positive things about them. They are usually used on temporarywebsites.Content Costs, Attention, and QualityIf you have a high attention portion of your site, you may want to undermonetize itsuch that you do not lose your attention. But if that portion of your site is buildinggreat authority, you can leverage that authority through the rest of your site.
137Create some expensive, high-quality content and view those content costs as amarketing expense. From the leverage that content provides, you can feed off thatauthority using dozens or hundreds of decent quality articles that are moreaggressively monetized.Unexplored WatersHype Hype HypeSome fields are hyper-saturated and full of hype. Unless you can become one ofthe few people at the top of that social group, you probably are not going to makemuch money jumping into a hyper-saturated field, unless you know how to createcontroversy and/or can attack the field from another angle. Remember, justbecause there is hype and conversation in a market does not mean there is moneyto be made there.Where the Money IsIf you find holes in conventional SEO wisdom, you can make a boatload of cash.I like having at least a couple spare sites to do algorithmic testing on.If you find markets that are not yet on the radar of other marketers, it is going tobe far easier to profit from your sites.I have a number of niche sites that make hundreds of dollars a month whilerequiring virtually no effort to run them. This site has done well for me, but I havesome sites that make over $1,000 a month while requiring well under an hour ofwork, largely because they are markets underserved by other SEOs. One retailer Ido SEO for makes about $40,000 a month on marketing entirely driven by searchengines. I might spend about an hour a month marketing his site.The point of that last paragraph is not to paint me as arrogant or rich, but more toemphasize that there is a true disconnect between value created and how muchprofit you make. It makes more sense to target underserved markets andtechniques than to jump into an already developed hyper-saturated marketplace.If you have authority but are not profiting from it, think of how you can extendyour brand out to serve underserved markets. If you have found someunderserved markets but lack authority, think of authoritative ideas you can add tothe site to boost your overall authority score.Interactive ElementsLiteratureBush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” The Atlantic Online. July, 1945.
13812 December 2006.<http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/flashbks/computer/bushf.htm>.Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point. Back Bay Books, 2002.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316346624/)Kamvar, Sepandar, et. al. “Exploiting the Block Structure of the Webfor Computing Pagerank.” March 2003. 26 December 2006.<http://www.stanford.edu/~sdkamvar/papers/blockrank.pdf>SoftwareAdLab – offers keyword funnels and other related keyword tools(http://adlab.msn.com/)Alexa: competitive analysis tool (http://www.alexa.com)Automated content generation: higher risk tools(http://www.articlebot.com)Compete (http://snapshot.compete.com/seobook.com/)CopyScape: find people who are copying your website(http://www.copyscape.com)Digital Point keyword suggestion tool(http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/suggestion/)Free Meta Tag Generator(http://tools.seobook.com/meta-medic/)Good Keywords: downloadable keyword software(http://www.goodkeywords.com/)Google AdWords keyword suggestion tool(https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal)Google Sets (http://labs.google.com/sets)Google Suggest(http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en)Google Suggest Scraper Tool(http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-information/)Google Traffic Estimator(https://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficEstimatorSandbox)Google Trends (http://www.google.com/trends)GoRank Ontology Tool(http://www.gorank.com/seotools/ontology/)HitWise: competitive analysis tool (http://www.hitwise.com)
139KeyCompete – lists keywords that competitors are buying onAdWords (http://www.keycompete.com/)Keyword Discovery (http://www.keyworddiscovery.com) and theirkeyword directory http://keyworddiscovery.com/keyword-directory.htmlKeyword Intelligence (http://www.keywordintelligence.com/)Lexical FreeNet (http://www.lexfn.com/)MSN clustering preview(http://rwsm.directtaps.net/p5/clustermain.aspx)Quantcast (http://quantcast.com/seobook.com)Quintura – latent semanitic indexing tool(http://www.quintura.com/)SEO Book keyword suggestion tool(http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword/)SEO for Firefox (http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/seo-for-firefox.html)SpyFu – lists keywords that competitors rank for or are buying(http://www.spyfu.com/)Tag Cloud: free folksonomy tool (http://www.tagcloud.com/)WordNet: a lexical keyword database for the English language(http://www.cogsci.princeton.edu/~wn/)WordTracker (http://www.wordtracker.com)Xenu Link Sleuth: finds broken links on your site(http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html)Yahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool(http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/)Web SitesArticle about keyword density not meaning much(http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/Mar05/garcia.html)BBC RSS feeds (http://backstage.bbc.co.uk/)Common Content (http://www.commoncontent.org/)Constant Content (http://www.constant-content.com/)Copyleft (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/copyleft.html)Copyright.gov (http://www.copyright.gov)
140Dan Thies Keyword Research Video: links near the end of this post(http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/blog/2005/10/seo-controlling-entry-pages.html)Elance (http://www.elance.com)FedWorld (http://www.fedworld.com/)Google Search: SEO Bookhttp://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=seo+bookInternet Archives (http://www.archive.org/)Mike Grehan’s interview of Jon Glick(http://www.seobook.com/archives/000292.shtml)My keyword research video(http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4731142191695956676)Post about Paris Hilton’s popularity(http://chartreuse.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/why-paris-hilton-is-famous-or-understanding-value-in-a-post-madonna-world/)Robots Exclusion Protocol(http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/exclusion.html)SEO Radio (http://www.seoradio.com/)SEO Research Labs keyword reports(http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/)Sitemaps protocol (http://www.sitemaps.org/)Smaller search engines for keyword research Snap, Ask.com,Gigablast & Vivisimo(http://www.snap.com)(http://www.ask.com)(http://www.gigablast.com)(http://vivisimo.com/)(http://www.become.com)U.S. Government RSS feeds(http://www.firstgov.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/Libraries/RSS_Library.shtml)Webmaster Radio: hosts SEO Rockstars(http://www.webmasterradio.fm/)Yahoo! Search: SEO Bookhttp://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=slv1-&ei=UTF-8&p=seo+bookYahoo! Search: Untitled Document—shows many people are failingto name their documents correctly
141(http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=allintitle%3Auntitled+document)Government Printing OfficesCatalog of US Government Publications(http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cgp)CIA (http://foia.cia.gov/)FBI (http://foia.fbi.gov/)Library of Congress (http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/news/extgovd.html)New Electronic Titles (contains content that is not yet properlyindexed and sorted) (http://www.acces.gpo.gov/su_docs/locators/)U.S. Department of State (http://foia.state.gov/)U.S. Historical Documents (http://www.ushda.org/)Some Notes" Try out a few of the keyword suggestion tools to find your favorite. You’llprobably use these tools often." Look at your top-ranking competitors’ websites to see what terms andtypes of customers they are optimized for." Do home page keyword research. Optimize your home page." Find at least three keyword phrases to build internal categories around.What division points are logical for your internal site structure?" List five important questions or quality criteria customers may ask or lookat before hiring you. Does your website cover these issues?" Ask five customers why they chose you? Would it make sense toemphasize these aspects more?" Ask for review of your page at the SearchGuild SEO forum.(http://www.searchguild.com)" Optimize another page of your website and ask to have it reviewed if youare still uncomfortable.
142Directories andCommunitiesMost pages that get submitted to search engines are of low-quality. There is noguarantee that your site will get included for free just by submitting it. The bestway to get listed in search engines is to get other people to link to your site.Yahoo! is currently the only major search engine to offer a paid inclusion program.Yahoo! Search Submit Express lists sites in all of the Yahoo search properties. Inaddition to a $49 inclusion fee, they also charge a category-based price-per-click ofeither 15 or 30 cents. Usually, paid inclusion into search engines is not worthit for most sites, largely because most sites will get included for free if theybuild a few links.Search Engines versus DirectoriesSearch engines are operated by scripts and machine code. Some of them havehuman editors, but, by and large, search engines are run by automated relevancyalgorithms.Directories are human-compiled lists of sites organized by categories. Sincedirectories are entirely human-edited, they take time and effort to maintain.Whenever I create a new site and I am happy with it, I submit it to a about a halfdozen or a dozen directories. A few of the larger directories are listed in the nextsection. In addition, you can find a relationship chart that clearly shows how thelargest search engines and directories interact here:http://www.bruceclay.com/searchenginerelationshipchart.htmWhen submitting to directories, it is worth it to spend the extra time to ensure youare in the correct category and are following the directory guidelines. For example,the DMOZ guidelines can be found here: http://dmoz.org/add.html.Chapter5
143Submitting Your SiteSubmitting to Search EnginesThe best way to get your site indexed is through having a search engine followa link from another site. This section will focus on how to maximize the speedand efficiency of this process. I will address paid inclusion (mentioned above) inmore depth toward the end of this book.Social Interaction and LinksWhere to Get Links" Create content or ideas that important people can identify with andwould likely link to." Directories may link to sites you submit." You can exchange links with similar websites. If you can afford to, it isbetter to create legitimate business partnerships and friendships ratherthan just to trade links with whoever is willing." Writing articles about your topic and placing them on other websitescan give you inbound links via the article signature. If you submitarticles to other sites, you may want to create unique content just forthe article submission sites, or have a longer or different version of thearticle on your site so that you are not fighting against duplicatecontent issues when others syndicate your articles." Writing press releases can give you inbound links." You can participate in forums that provide signature links. If youparticipate in communities and leave relevant, useful comments, theneventually people may want to link to you if they start to like you." Buy links or rent advertising space." Donate to charities for links." People interested in your site may eventually link to you without youasking. Generally, this is where SEO battles are either won or lost incompetitive markets.Generally, the easier and cheaper the link is to get, the less a search engine will wantto trust it. Getting other people to want to talk about you or your business (andlink to you) is the golden egg of SEO.Search engines want to count legitimate editorial citations. They would prefer notto count other types of links as votes. Some engines, such as Google, haveadvanced algorithms to find and discount many artificial links.How often do Search Engines Crawl?
144Search engines constantly crawl the web. Pages that frequently update with stronglink popularity may get crawled many times each day. Pages that do not changethat often, are associated with spammy sections of the web, and/or have little linkpopularity may get crawled only once or twice a month.Sites like CNN are crawled hundreds or thousands of times each day. Since searchengines are constantly adding content to their index, they are in a constant state offlux.How Search Engines Evaluate LinksThrough the “eyes” of a search engine, you usually cannot control who links toyou, but you can control to whom you link.. In most cases, if bad sites link to you,it does not hurt you. If you link back, it does. So in essence, it usually does nothurt you to get inbound links. You should be rather selective with whom youare willing to link out.Start With TrustSome search algorithms may look at the good link to bad link ratio as well. If yoursite has few well-trusted links and many low-quality ones, they may filter out yoursite if they suspect it of overt ranking manipulation.When you get quality links, you are not only getting the boost those links may giveyou, but you are also lowering your risk profile and naturalizing your link profile.Some links are a sure sign of quality. For example, if you are listed in the Yahoo!Directory, search engines know that at some point in time an editor working at asearch company reviewed your website.If you are trying to replicate the success of a competing site, it is important to startby trying to get a number of higher quality links before getting too many low-quality links.If you are unsure if something is a quality link or not, ask yourself if you were asearch engineer would you want to trust that link. If the answer is “yes,” then it is aquality link. It is still okay to get some low-quality links, as automated scraper sitesand other junk sites give practically all well-ranked sites a bunch of low-qualitylinks, but the key to doing well in the long term is to try to create a reason whypeople would want to give you quality links.Blogs and Weblog Comment SpamI recommend viewing the web as a social medium. Find blogs with posts abouttopics you are interested in and participate in the community. The whole point ofweblogs is community discussion, so it is not spam to add something useful andlink to your website from it.
145Don’t expect the link to help you rank better in the search engines, but if youparticipate in your community and leave useful comments, it will make somepeople more likely to link to your site or pay attention to you.An even better way to get noticed with blogs is to comment about what otherblogs say on your own blog.On some occasions I have seen mainstream media outlets quote blogs or contactpeople who left comments on blogs. If you are actively engaged in theconversation, you will gain authority much quicker than if you are not.Rel="NoFollow"Many major search engines and blog software vendors came together to make alink “nofollow” attribute. The “nofollow” tag allows people to leave static links inthe comments of blogs that search engines may not count for relevancy.Essentially, the tag is designed to be used when allowing others to post unverifiedlinks into your site. It is a way of saying, “I did not provide an editorial vote for theother page.”You also can use it if you are linking out to shady stuff, but do not want to parseany link credit to the destination URL.Many webmasters are likely to be a bit sneaky and create fake blogs and then spamtheir own blog with links off to high-margin website affiliate programs.The “nofollow” feature looks as follows:<a href="http://www.fgfgsgqf.com" rel="nofollow">Link Text</a>The rel="nofollow" tag may also make it easier for many webmasters to cheatout reciprocal link partners. However, I am a big believer in karma, and doingthings like that will likely come back to hurt you.Also think of the “nofollow” tag as if you were a search engineer. If a site was fullof nothing but unverified links, would you trust that site as much as a site that hadsome trusted editorial links to other sites? I wouldn’t.Search engineers, such as Google’s Matt Cutts, are trying to push webmasters touse “nofollow” on ads sold on their sites. Unless the use of “nofollow” is builtinto your content management system, I would not recommend using “nofollow.”Using it is a way to define your site as an SEO site that may be trying to manipulateGoogle’s index.Chat, Google Groups & ForumsIn forums, people asking and answering questions creates free content for theperson who owns the site. This automated content creation allows the forumowner to sell advertising space against the work of others.
146In exchange for the posts, many SEO forums allow signature links that point toyour website. Since forums change rapidly, they often get indexed frequently. Yoursite will get indexed quickly if you ask a few questions at a few of the various SEOforums.Of course, the goal of forums is to have meaningful conversations, but if you arereading this e-book, odds are that you may still have some SEO questions.Forum links are easy to get and forums have many links on the pages though, sothe links probably do not have a large effect on SEO. Forum sig links fromrelevant. useful posts have far more direct value in driving sales and buildingfriendships than in effecting search results directly.I have found that some search engines such as Yahoo! look at word patterns onweb pages to find what words relate to others. I have the username “seobook” onmany forums. On many forums, there is a button to private message users next totheir username.By helping others by participating in web communities, you become morelinkworthy and work your name and your brand into the language representative ofyour topic. Plus, if you know what people in your community are talking about, itis much easier to create things they would be interested in and market them to theirneeds and wants.General DirectoriesDirectories Worth Getting Links InThe two most popular directories are DMOZ and the Yahoo! Directory. Justabout any quality search algorithm should trust and place weight on links fromthose two sources.The Open Directory ProjectThe Open Directory Project (DMOZ) is free, but sometimes it can take a while toget listed. DMOZ editors work free of charge and are under no obligation to listyour website.
147Ensure that you take the time to submit your site to the right category and followtheir directory guidelines. If your site is not in English, make sure you submit it tothe world category. Regional sites should be submitted to their respective regionalcategory.With DMOZ, you do not need to keep resubmitting over and over. In the past,they allowed webmasters to ask for status checks on submissions, but theydiscontinued that in May 2005. If you do not get accepted, it is not worth losingsleep over. Submit and forget it.If you have general questions about DMOZ, you may want to ask at ResourceZone.Become a DMOZ EditorYou may want to apply to become an editor if you really enjoy your category. Youshould take your time when applying to become an editor. It is easier to becomean editor for a small, non-commercial category than a large, highly commercial one.After you become an editor and do a good job, you can gain editing privileges overother categories as well. Also, it is best if you do not disclose that you areinterested in SEO. They would prefer to hear you say you want to help organizethe web and make it a better place. Saying you are a hobbyist, enthusiast, academic,or retired person is far better off than telling them you are the CEO of a companyin your field.The Value of a DMOZ ListingThe Open Directory Project is syndicated by many other sites and inclusion into itoften provides your site with dozens of inbound links. Many people are quick tostate that the Open Directory is worthless or that it is super important.The fact is, it is fairly important for some sites and fairly unimportant for others. Itreally depends on how many other good places there are that may be willing to linkto your site and how creative you are in making things they would want to link at.There are many variables that go into the value of a listing. I usually just submitand forget about it. I do not find that it helps to be preoccupied with a DMOZlisting. Many high ranking sites are listed in DMOZ and many high ranking sitesare not. Most of my original useful sites were accepted into DMOZ. Most of myspam sites were not.No ODP Meta TagIt is easy to create a compelling meta description tag that emphasizes your brandstrengths, but if a website is listed in the Open Directory Project, search enginesmay prefer to use your ODP listing information over your meta description orpage content when displaying your site in the search results. If you do not like theODP listing information, you can prevent search engines from displaying it whenyour site appears in search results by using the following meta tag:
148<meta name=“robots” content=“noodp”>The Yahoo! DirectoryYour site will still list in Yahoo! powered search results even if you do not submityour site to their directory, but their directory is well worth its cost for mostcommercial sites. Yahoo! charges a $299 recurring annual fee for commercial sites(double that for adult sites), which is a bit expensive for small-time webmasters, butnot a large fee if you are serious about making and marketing a quality website witha legitimate business model.A number of people I know have changed their credit card details and found thattheir Yahoo! Directory listings still stayed even though they did not re-pay theirrecurring annual review fee.Unlike most directories, Yahoo! shifted their directory to list sites in order ofpopularity, instead of alphabetically. They also paginate the results, so if your site isnew and there are 300 sites listed in your category, your site will not be appearingon the first page of the category unless you also pay a monthly directory categorysponsorship fee, build significant link popularity from a variety of sources, or find amore niche category to which you can submit.Non-commercial sites can list in the Yahoo! Directory for free, and I can attest tothe fact that they have listed multiple sites I own for free.When a site gets submitted to the Yahoo! Directory, an editor checks the quality ofthe site. Since Yahoo! controls their own directory, it would be logical for them toplace extra weighting on a Yahoo! Directory-listed site. Many top SEOs have toldme that they have seen significant increases in their Yahoo! Search rankings aftersubmitting a site to the Yahoo! Directory, and a Yahoo! Directory link seems to betrusted fairly well in Google as well.If you submit your site for free, make sure you submit to the most relevantcategory. If you pay the Yahoo! Directory review fee, it might be worth it to try tosubmit to a somewhat authoritative category. They may place your site in adifferent category than that to which you have submitted, but it is worth a shot.To give you an example, in the Yahoo! Search guidelines, they link to a SEOresources category. Thus, I decided to submit my site to the authoritative SEOresources category instead of submitting to the SEO services category. Why?Because they link to the SEO resources category in their search guidelines, thereare fewer sites in that category, and the co-citation is associated with higher qualitysites.Regional Yahoo! DirectoriesYahoo! has depreciated the value of many of their own regional directories. Theystill accept free submissions, but do not guarantee a review time.
149Second Tier DirectoriesAlthough more expensive than many other second tier directories, BOTW is oneof the better general directories. Directories such as Gimpsy, GoGuides,RubberStamped, Uncover the Net, JoeAnt, and Skaffe all cost less than $50 eachfor submission.JoeAnt is free if you become an editor, and it only takes a couple minutes to signup. Gimpsy is free if you are willing to wait many months. Skaffe is free foreditors. GoGuides has a bulk submission discount program.If you are going to list your sites in many directories, you may be able to save timeby using RoboForm to save some of your submission details, but make sure youmodify it to make your listings unique at each location.Mix Things Up!When links and citations occur naturally, there is no easily definable pattern. Ifsomething is easy for a search engine to do and it will improve search quality, theyprobably will do it. As a result, make sure you mix up your anchor text and yoursite descriptions so that there is no easily identifiable unnatural pattern.If you start directories yourself and you use common default directory software,you may want to remove the common footprints the script leaves. If other sitesusing this script are abusing it, you do not want to cause your site to be filtered aswell if a search engine decides to penalize sites that are using a commonly abusedscript.Junk General DirectoriesOn the web, links are a currency. The problem is, many webmasters want any linkthey can get to improve their link popularity. Some webmasters take advantage ofthis situation by creating low-quality, general web directories that will link toanyone willing to give them some money.This leads to a couple problems, both of which essentially boil down to anunnatural linkage profile. If a directory is not useful to humans, then the inboundlinks are likely going to lack linkage data from many trusted sites. To build up ahigh PageRank, the directory will often build lots of links from many low-qualitysites.Additionally, many of these directory owners are lazy and have no desire to createany legitimate value. In not employing editors to add any useful sites, most of thelisted sites in the directories are of low quality.TrustRank as an EqualizerTrustRank is an algorithm that assigns trust scores to a seed set of around a fewhundred or so human-reviewed websites. From those sites, trust propagatesthroughout the web. If most of a site’s inbound and outbound links are related to
150sites with low trust scores, then that site might have a bad trust score. Good siteswill likely have a higher percentage of trusted links.TrustRank can re-rank the results to account for any improved rankings that wouldhave occurred due to link spamming. They may even impose a penalty greaterthan the effective gain from the link spamming, which is why it is important tomake sure you build some quality links and do not just buy from any page sellingPageRank.TrustRank also flags high PageRank sites with low trust scores for human reviews.This allows them to assign bad trust scores to sites that are artificially manipulatingthe search results.The following is a graphic of the link profile of a typical money-hungry, low-qualitydirectory. The red Xs represent things that should be there, but are not.Many other low-quality sites exist on the web outside of the directory space, butthe business model of selling links to desperate webmasters has created a glut ofjunk directories. This glut of directories and their link profiles makes the conceptof TrustRank easy to understand.
151How do I Tell Which Directories are Good and Which are Bad?I do not necessarily have the best answer for that question. If you are building asite for temporary profits, then even most of the low-quality ones can help youbuild links that will be effective for ranking in MSN or Yahoo!. The problemcomes about when some of those links that help you in less sophisticatedalgorithms end up hurting your Google ranking.From the above picture, you can see that search algorithms are reliant upon linkagedata. If you look at a site’s inbound links (I will explain how to do this later on)and find few links from quality sites, few or no related sites, and many low-qualitylinks, that is not a good sign for the long-term potential of the link.When you look through the listings in your category and throughout the directory,there should be, in general, many high-quality sites that were added for free by aneditor for each site that paid for a listing. You do not need to view the wholedirectory to figure out if it is good or bad, just a few categories that you know well.Are quality sites listed there? If mostly junk sites are listed there, then you probablydo not want to pay for a submission.If the categories are almost all blank, then wait to see if an editor will be making ituseful. If the directory consists only of paid listings or blank pages it is probablynot worth paying to be listed. Directories with many empty categories often getflagged by duplicate content filters for having too much similar content, since thereis little content on most of their pages beyond the directory structure.Another thing to look out for is site-wide or home page ads to high margin sites inareas like casino, prescription, or debt consolidation. Avoid those types ofdirectories as well, since they are more likely to be above radar and search engineerswould be more likely to want to discount links from those sites.I believe TrustRank is not implemented to the point where you get large negativescores for just a few bad links, as scraper sites virtually guarantee all top-rankedsites gain a few bad links, but perhaps it could be used to help figure out the goodlink to bad link ratio and flag high PageRank sites with low trust scores for humanreview.Niche DirectoriesIndustry-Specific DirectoriesBusiness.com is a business directory that costs a couple hundred dollars annually tolist your site. In general, Business.com is a strong link that most businesses shouldbuy in on. Business.com and some other directories allow you to list multiple linksin your listing.
152There are also many industry-specific directories you can find by searching forterms such as “<my keywords> + add URL,” “<my keywords> + submit,” or“<my keywords> + directory.” I usually try to find directories that have one-timesubmission fees or directories that look as though they are going to be long-standing, quality directories.Tips to Pick Directory CategoriesOftentimes a site will fit many different categories. When choosing a category tosubmit to in a directory, I look at a few different ideas." Is my site likely to be accepted if I submit to this category? I tend tobe more conservative when submitting to a free directory than if I amsubmitting to a paid directory." Are there reasons that this organization, or other sites outside of thisorganization, are going to place extra emphasis on (or otherwise linkinto) this category?" How many links are listed in this category?" Where does this category fit in the directory structure?" How related is my site to the sites listed in this category?Reasons Why I Like Second Tier Directories (Great Value)Since second tier directories are smaller, your link is usually closer to the root page,and most pages have fewer outbound links than large directories. If the categoriesin a large directory are full of hundreds of sites, or are many levels deep into thedirectory structure, you may gain greater link popularity in a smaller directory thanin a larger one.Keep in mind that the quality of the other sites listed in the directory matters too.If they list many junk sites, then few quality resources are going to link to their site.It is probably not a good idea to list your site in hundreds of directories if you havenot built up significant trust. Also remember that some links may count as anegative, so try to be somewhat conservative with what you consider to be of goodquality if you are hoping to rank well in Google.Directory TrafficDirectories rarely provide much direct traffic. The bulk of the value of a directorylisting is in how search engines evaluate the links. Occasionally, you will find ageneral directory that does provide good traffic—that is the exception more thanthe rule.Niche directories tend to drive decent traffic. Any site that ranks well in relatedsearch results may be a good place to get a link, because ranking for relevant searchqueries means they stand a good chance of being a well-trusted link source andsending you direct visitors.
153Reciprocal Link RequiredSome directories require reciprocal links to be listed in them. I do not recommendswapping links with most of these types of directories. Directories are intended tolist sites. Sites are not intended to list directories. If you like something, then feelfree to link to it, if not, then don’t. Some vertical niche directories are of highenough quality to deserve links, but most are not.Link popularity is a currency, and if you are lacking money (as I was when I startedon the web), you may need to reciprocate a few links off the start, but if you gettoo aggressive with link trades, you will be digging yourself a hole by making yourlink profile unnatural, and you can waste many hours of time.The exceptions to this rule are that I am usually willing to reciprocate links with thefollowing directories:" Extremely powerful sites that I do not believe are going to getpenalized. Generally this type of site still should be on the same topicas your site." Directories that are well-focused and are defined as an industry hub inmy topic. The SEO Consultants Directory, for example, would not bea bad directory for SEO sites to link to.Directory WarningsSome sites that pose as directories do not provide static text links and/or theirpages do not get indexed. Many of these databases will never provide any directtraffic or link popularity. Additionally, many directories require reciprocal linkingand use their sites to promote aggressive high-margin products. If you link intosites that primarily promote off-topic high-margin items, then you are sharing thebusiness risk that site owner is taking.If you choose to spend money on directory submission, you should ensure that thedirectory provides direct traffic or link popularity. You can do this by checking tomake sure their directory pages have some PageRank on them and are in Google’scache. Search Google for “cache:www.directory.com/page.php,” and check thelinks of listed sites. When you scroll over a link in the directory, the status bar atthe bottom should indicate the domain that the link is pointing to and not somesort of redirect. You also can right click on the link to copy link location and thenpaste that to the address bar." You can check PageRank by downloading the free Google Toolbar." To ensure that a page is not showing phantom PageRank, check thatthe page is in Google’s cache. Search Google for“cache:www.whateversite.com/whateverpage.com.”" Also make sure that the cache date is within the last month. If a pagehas not been cached for many months, then search engines do nottrust that page much.
155If you are using a content management system for your site, make sure you are notaccidentally offering search engines the same (or near same) content at multipleURL variations.Places to Find DirectoriesI created the Directory Archives, which should only list directories that parse linkpopularity to sites listed in them or directories that look like they might drive trafficto listed sites. In addition, Search Engine Guide and ISEDB each have a largedirectory of directories (though many of the directories listed in those may notparse link value).Ensure that the page is in Google’s cache and that the address bar shows thelocation of the site the link is going to before paying for placement in any directory.I also created a Microsoft Excel Directory Checklist sheet so you can track yoursubmissions to many general directories. Some of them are a bit sketchy, but someof them are decent, and most of them provide links for free or for a one-time fee.The directories with a blue background are the ones I believe provide the mostauthority in Google or are priced cheaply enough to provide value even if Googledoes not count them.The Value of Directory ListingsThe value of a single directory link is usually not very great. Directories add valueafter you list in many of them, especially if you are listing in high-quality ones nextto other sites that are in your same vertical.If you have a keyword-rich domain name, it will help you get descriptive inboundlinks from directories. Most sites on the web only have links from a few dozensites. By listing your site in a half dozen to a dozen quality directories and alsogetting links from other relevant quality sites, you can quickly build up a greatlinking campaign at minimal cost.Known SEO CirclesMost directories are not of amazingly high quality, listing many lousy websites.Martinibuster, a link building guru, often emphasizes avoiding being heavily locatedin known SEO circles.For example, common SEO strategies for a new site might be to list a site in abunch of directories, write a press release or two, trade links with many low-quality
156sites, get a few links from signature files from SEO forums, and submit a fewarticles to various article banks.If your link profile matches that of most SEO websites, then it may be harder torank than if you can come up with creative ways to get links from places that fewother SEOs are listed.Large portions of the web are well trusted and virgin territory to most SEOs. Ifyou can think of creative ways to relate your site to people with great trusted andrarely abused link equity results will show far quicker than if you follow the samepath taken by many people who are obviously SEOing their sites.Google Ignoring Some DirectoriesSome directories have recently been removed from Google’s cache, while othersare not crawled very deeply. Additionally, some of them have not had their cachedates updated in a great deal of time. Google might be trying to slow the growthof directories by not counting the links from many of them. Make sure you checkthe cache before paying for a listing.Some of the directories will have a greater effect on relevancy in MSN or Yahoo!than they do on Google, so even if a directory is not counted by Google, the linkprice might still be cheap for its effects on other search relevancy algorithms.Many directory owners are building multiple related directories. Some searchalgorithms such as Google Hilltop are likely to automatically filter out some of therelevancy score from a second directory if it is easily identifiable as being related tothe first directory.The one-time listing fees make directories exceptionally appealing, but expect thatmany directories will eventually be ignored by some of the search engines. In myperspective, that cost is factored into the listing prices. I average out the link costsfor links from a number of sites. If I can spend $1,000 and get a dozen or twodozen well-trusted links, then that is going to be a good buy for launching a site.The reason there are so many different pieces of information associated withdirectories is that for a good period of time, they were pure gold. They providedcheap and easy marketing and a virtually unlimited ROI, but because they weregetting so abused Google had to buck the trend by coming up with ways to lowerthat ROI.Instead of just discounting some of the links, I believe Google may even placenegative weighting on links from sites they define as low quality. Since Google isso much more complex and harder to manipulate than Yahoo! and MSN (andYahoo! and MSN still place great weight on directories, even on many of the bad
157ones), it is hard to explain what directories count as quality links – it really dependson your brand strategy, short term goals, and long term goals.I think it is safe to say that when you look at directories such as Yahoo!, DMOZ,Best of the Web, JoeAnt, and Gimpsy that they probably count as good links in allthe major search engines. Google still ranks many niche sites well, primarily basedon general directory links with few other citations.The Active WebSearch beat out directories as a primary means of navigation due to scalability andefficiency of the search business model. Directories are nowhere near as efficientat monetizing traffic and generally are not as relevant as search engines.In addition to search, there are also other forces killing the margins of directories:" Social news sites. Bottoms-up news sites have virtually no cost andcan quickly build authority because the user becomes the editor, whichmeans the content is relevant to them and they have a vested interestin marketing their own work." Social bookmarking sites. Similar to social news sites, but users tagpages they find interesting. There might be some spam marketinggoing on in both of these channels, but because we can connect to ourclosest friends AND can leverage the user base of the community, weget a fairly high signal to noise ratio." Bloggers. As more and more people maintain websites in activechannels that people are actively paying attention to (i.e., are regularlyreading), it will be easier for engines to determine what parts of theweb are important, and discount those that are not. Quality blogs alsohelp identify communities and place more context around most linksthan most directories do.A Yahoo! Directory link, listings in a few of the top general directories, and listingsin niche specific directories are still worthwhile because they help identify whatcommunities you belong to and are signs of editorial quality. But registering in1,000 directories is not a long-term effective link-building solution. The role ofoutlying directories on the web is being reduced as a whole due to so many morepeople maintaining active websites.If competing channels are actively participating in or are actively mentioned in theactive portions of the web then you are going to need to come up with creativeways for your business to get exposure in those parts of the web as well if you wantto compete.Interactive ElementsSoftware
158Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/)Google Toolbar 4 beta (http://www.google.com/tools/toolbar/T4/)PageRank for Safari (http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/pagerank-mac)Prog: free Google PageRank display search tool(http://seochat.com/seo-tools/pagerank-search)RoboForm: form filler (http://www.roboform.com)Top25Web PageRank lookup(http://www.top25web.com/pagerank.php)The Major Search EnginesSearch Engine Relationship chart by Bruce Clay(http://www.bruceclay.com/searchenginerelationshipchart.htm)TrustRank: an algorithm for determining the difference between agood link and a bad link (http://www.seobook.com/archives/000661.shtml)DirectoriesBOTW (http://botw.org/)Business.com (http://www.business.com)DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org)DMOZ Resource Zone (http://resource-zone.com/)DMOZ submission guidelines (http://dmoz.org/add.html)Gimpsy (http://www.gimpsy.com)JoeAnt (http://www.joeant.com)RubberStamped (http://www.rubberstamped.org)Skaffe (http://www.skaffe.com)Uncover the Net (http://www.uncoverthenet.com)Web Beacon (http://www.web-beacon.com)WoW Directory (http://www.wowdirectory.com)Yahoo! Directory (http://www.dir.yahoo.com/)Directories of DirectoriesDirectory Archives (http://www.directoryarchives.com)ISEDB (http://www.isedb.com/html/Web_Directories/)Search Engine Guide(http://www.searchengineguide.com/searchengines.html)
159Other SitesHow to check Google’s cache (Google’s cache of my home page)(http://22.214.171.124/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=cache%3Awww.seobook.com)My Directory Checklist (http://www.seobook.com/directorylist.xls)Some Notes" Apply to become an editor at JoeAnt, Skaffe, Web Beacon, and DMOZ incategories that interest you. DMOZ will probably reject you. When youdo apply to DMOZ, try to apply for a small, ugly, and non-commercialcategory (maybe a local one) and take your time filling out the application." If your site is together and you can afford it, submit your site to the above-listed directories. If you cannot afford it, apply to become an editor andsubmit your site to whatever directories you can for free." If your site is new, and you are working on limited time and a limitedbudget, submit your site to at least 3 quality directories.
160Search EnginesSearch has been consolidated to being in the hands of a couple important players.In some regional markets, there might be important local players, but for most ofthe world, Google, Yahoo!, and MSN control the bulk of search.The Major Search EnginesThe following search engines are reviewed in order of search distribution from thebest of my knowledge. Some of the first-listed search engines may appear to havemore content and more information than the later-listed search engines. There areseveral reasons that the top couple search engines have much more data listed intheir sections:" Much of the data from one section would carry over to the nextsection." Companies that have been focused on search the longest are morelikely to have plugged algorithmic holes." Google is MUCH harder for new webmasters to manipulate than theother engines.The order of these listings has nothing to do with the relevancy or quality of thesearch results. They all provide quality results using similar algorithms.GoogleGoogle Search DistributionCurrently Google is powering around 60% of U.S. search (Google, AOL,Earthlink, Go, Netscape, and many others). More worldwide search statistics areavailable at http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/index.php.Chapter6
161Google shows up to ten pay-per-click AdWords ads on their search results, butthey keep them separate from the regular (or organic) listings. There is no directway to pay Google money to list in their organic search results.PageRank (PR), BrieflyGoogle is primarily driven by linkage data.The Google Toolbar provides a 0-10 logarithmic scale to mimic the link popularityof pages. PageRank helps provide a quick glance how important Google thinks apage is.Google would like you to believe that their PageRank algorithm is the core of theirsearch technology, but they also use many other technologies to improve theirsearch relevancy.Many webmasters exchange links with as many people as they can, but there is anopportunity cost to everything you do. There are algorithms for sorting good linksfrom bad links. Many link schemes increase your risk profile much quicker thanthey increase your potential rewards. When you link into the wrong circles, yourun the risk of being associated with them.It is important to note that this PageRank value is only one component of theGoogle search engine algorithm. Many times, a PR 4 site will rank above a PR 6site because it was optimized better and has a well-defined descriptive inbound linkprofile, which means better, more natural links from more sites (and more relatedsites).Many Myths about GoogleThere are many myths about Google that are represented as fact by marketerstrying to make money. Misinformation spreads like wildfire because everyonewants to sound like the smart person with all the answers. One example of themany myths about Google is that you are limited to 100 links per page.
162Google threw out that guidance based upon usability ideas. On pages with no linkpopularity, they will not want to follow many links. On pages with a large amountof link popularity, Google will scour thousands of links.I have one page with over 950K of page copy. Most pages should be smaller thanthat from a usability standpoint, but Google has fully indexed that page.If you ever have questions on any rumors regarding Google and SEO,SearchGuild.com is one of the most straightforward SEO forums on the web.What Pages of My Site are Indexed by Google?You can check to see what pages of your site are indexed by searching Google for“site:www.mysite.com mysite.”How do I Submit My Site to Google?While Google also offers a free site submit option, the best way to submit your siteis by having Google’s spider follow links from other web pages.Google offers a Google Sitemaps program that you can use to help Google setcrawl priorities. In addition to helping Google index your site, the Sitemapsprogram also shows you if they have any crawling problems with your site.Where do I Rank in Google for My Keywords?I use the free Digital Point keyword ranking tool to determine where I rank inGoogle. The Digital Point keyword ranking tool also supports Yahoo! and MSN.Tracking various sites helps me determine some of the ways Google may bechanging their algorithm.If you sign up for the Google API service and are doing lots of sketchy stuff, thenit makes it easy for Google to cross connect your websites. Google generally is theslowest of the major search engines to trust and rank new websites.Google Backlink CheckBacklinks is another way of saying “links into a page.”When you check backlinks in Google (link:www.whateversite.com,) it only shows asmall sampling of your total backlinks. Many links that do not show up whenyou use the “link:” function in Google still count for your relevancy scoring. Inaddition, there is a time delay between when links are created and when they willshow up in search results.To get a more accurate picture of links, you will also want to check backlinks usingYahoo! or MSN. Yahoo! typically shows many more backlinks than Google. Thecode to check Yahoo! backlinks to a site is “linkdomain:www.site.com.”
163How do I Know What Sites are Good?First off, common sense usually goes pretty far. If a page or site links to a bunch ofoff-topic or low-quality garbage, you can feel safe, assuming the page does not passlink authority. If you have doubts, you probably do not want to link.Secondly, Google has a toolbar that shows how it currently views a web page orwebsite. The Google toolbar is one of the top search engine optimization tools fora person new to search engine marketing. It works on Windows and isdownloadable at http://toolbar.google.com/.PageRank is a measure of link popularity, which can come and go. It’s not hard fora successful business to rent a few high PageRank links into their site and thenleverage that link popularity for link exchanges. A site with decent PageRank canget penalized just the same as a site with low PageRank. Usually, you will want toerror on the side of caution off the start.Instead of making PageRank your primary criteria when evaluating a page or site,just think of it as a baseline.Does Google trust this page? There are several ways in which this question can beanswered:" It ranks for relevant search queries, so that is a good sign." It is a useful page, so that is a good sign." It is relevant to my site, so that is a good sign." It only links to relevant resources, so that is a good sign.If you are using techniques that fall far outside of Google’s recommendedguidelines, I would not recommend using their toolbar, since the feedback thetoolbar provides may make it easy for them to link you to all of your websites.Google Toolbar Broken?" Sometimes the Google Toolbar gets stuck at 0 when searching theweb. If you are unsure of the PageRank of a page, go to a highPageRank site (like http://www.w3c.org) and then type the address ofwhere you were just at in the address bar of Internet explorer. Usuallythis technique will unstick the PageRank." Keep in mind that Google has only been updating toolbar displayPageRank about once every 3 months, so if a site is only a few monthsold, it will not be uncommon for it to show a PageRank 0 in thetoolbar. Also remember that PageRank is only a rough approximationof authority." To find out who is linking to your competitors, you can type“link:www.evilcompetitor.com” in the Google search box. Keep in
164mind that Google only shows a small sample of inbound links andother search engines show more/better linkage data." The toolbar is just an aid and should be combined with commonsense. If you see sites linking into awful websites or if a site lookssketchy, then it may not be a good place to get a link from." If you use the Safari browser, you can use the PageRank ToolbarWidget for the Mac from Digital Point.New Google Toolbar FeaturesIn February 2006, Google introduced the beta version of their 4thGoogle Toolbar.Some notable features are the following:" Search suggest. The toolbar tries to help you complete your searchqueries based on other popular searches." Toolbar buttons. You can create custom XML buttons to link tosome of your favorite sites. This also has a simple RSS readerintegrated into it. I created buttons on my site to link to many usefulfree SEO tools and SEO blogs." Saves bookmarks. If you are logged in, it saves your search historyand bookmarks in your Google Account, which is accessible from anycomputer.Google Update FloridaIn November of 2003, Google performed a major algorithm change. The goal ofthe change was to make it harder to manipulate their search results. It is believedthat Google may have significantly incorporated Hilltop, topic-specific PageRank,and/or latent semantic indexing into their algorithm.It is important to get links from the right community. Do not rely on cheesy off-topic link exchanges. They can hurt you more than they help you. For example, toa search engine marketer, a link from Search Engine Watch (a search engineinformation resource hub) is worth much more than many random off-topic links.I still have seen significant evidence that off-topic inbound links can improve yourGoogle rankings significantly, but it is likely that this will eventually change, andthere is an opportunity cost and risk level associated with every activity.In early 2004, Google also began to block the ability of certain sites to passPageRank, even if those same pages showed PageRank when you visited them.In addition, Google seems to have set up a portion of their algorithm to delay theeffects of some links or to only allow them to parse partial link credit until the linksage. These moves are aimed at curbing manipulation of the Google index throughlink buying by making it a much more expensive and much less predictableprocess.
165It may take up to three or so months for the full effect of new links to kick in.Google Update JaggerIn November of 2005, Google rolled out another major update that caused a roaron the SEO forums. I believe that the update was most likely related to scrubbinglink quality. Google also appeared to have placed more weight on TrustRank oranother similar technology.The value of low-quality automated links is going down daily. SEO is becomingmore and more about public relations and viral marketing.Google Update Big DaddyIn early 2006, Google upgraded their crawl and indexing systems to a newarchitecture that leveraged different crawl priorities.This update has caused many sites to be not indexed, partially indexed, or stuck inthe supplemental results. Matt Cutts mentioned on his blog that many sites thatwere well-indexed are no longer indexed or reduced to only having a few pagesindexed due to having primarily low-trust, spammy, inbound links, shady outboundlinks, or participating in cheesy link exchange networks.The message worth emphasizing again and again is that Google is looking forquality editorial links.Google SandboxMany new sites, or sites that have not been significantly developed, have a hardtime ranking right away on Google. Many well-known SEOs have stated that agood way to get around this problem is to just buy old sites. Another option is toplace a site on a subdomain of a developed site, and after the site is developed andwell-indexed, 301 redirect the site to the new location.The whole goal of the Sandbox concept is to put sites through a probationaryperiod until they prove they can be trusted.There are only a few ways webmasters can get around the Sandbox concept:" Buying an old site and ranking it" Placing pages on a long-established, well-trusted domain (throughbuying sites, renting full-page ads, paying for reviews, renting a folder,or similar activity)" Gaining a variety of natural high-quality links. When a real news storyspreads, some of the links come from news sites or other sites that arehighly trusted. Also note that when real news spreads, some of thelinks will come from new web pages on established, trusted sites (newnews story and new blog posts). It is an unnatural pattern for all yourlink popularity to come from pages that have existed for a long time,
166especially if they are links that do not send direct traffic and are mostlyfrom low-trust sites." Participating in hyper-niche markets where it is easy to rank withoutneeding a large amount of well-trusted link popularityGoogle & Authoritative DomainsContent on a new domain with limited authority will not rank as well as content ona trusted domain name. Through 2006 Google placed significant weighting ontrusted authoritative domains. According to Hitwise and the NYT in Novemberof 2006, search provides roughly 22% of the web traffic to many newspaperwebsites, with roughly 2/3 of that traffic coming from Google.Google is not sending these newspapers so much more traffic because thenewspapers are doing SEO. They are sending more traffic for a variety of concretereasons:" Google wants to rank informational pages." Many of these newspapers are well trusted offline within theircommunities." Newspapers have an informational bias and their articles consist of realunique human written text." Google feels they can rely on long established businesses and sourcesof power more than the average website.The more your sites (or sections of them) look like a trusted newspaper, the easierit is going to be to rank well in Google.Various Data CentersGoogle uses groups of data centers to process their search queries. When Googleupdates algorithms or their refreshes their index, the changes roll from one datacenter to the next. When results rapidly change back and forth, sometimes they aretweaking algorithms, but more frequently you are getting search results fromdifferent data centers. You can use the free Firefox ShowIP extension to find theIP address of the data center of your search query.About PageRankPageRank is a measure of connectivity. It is a rough approximation of the oddsthat a random web surfer will cross your page. PageRank is calculated by followinglinks throughout the web, and placing more weight on links from pages that manyquality pages link at.The problem with PageRank is that most industries and most ideas are notexceptionally important and well integrated into the web. This means that ifGoogle did place a heavy emphasis on PageRank, webmasters could simply buy or
167rent a few high PageRank links from sites in a more important vertical anddominate the search results for their niche topic. However, that is not how itworks.PageRank (also mentioned in The Anatomy of a Search Engine) as it relates toSEO is overrated. By Google making the concept easy to see and understand, itallows more people to talk about them and makes it easier for more people toexplain how search engines work using Google and PageRank as thevocabulary. Google’s technology is not necessarily better/more effective than thetechnologies owned by Yahoo!, MSN, or Ask, but they reinforce their marketposition by being the default vocabulary. And, as they move on to more elegantand more sophisticated technologies, many people are still using irrelevant outdatedmarketing techniques.SpeculationI mention a number of algorithms and concepts in the following section, including:Hilltop, TrustRank, Topic-Sensitive PageRank, temporal analysis, and latentsemantic indexing (LSI).Some of these algorithms may not be part of the current search environment, butthe ideas contained within them are still worth understanding to see where searchmay be headed and what search topics search engineers think are important toimprove their overall relevancy scores.HilltopHilltop is an algorithm that reorganizes search results based on an expert ratingsystem.In the Hilltop white paper, they talk about how expert documents can be used tohelp compute relevancy. An expert document is a non-affiliated page that links tomany related resources. If page A is related to page B and page B is related to pageC, then a connection between A and C is assumed.Additionally, Hilltop states that it strongly considers page title and page headings inrelevancy scores; in fact, these elements can be considered as important as, or moreimportant than, link text. It is likely that Hilltop also considers the links pointinginto the page and site that your links come from.The benefit of Hilltop over raw PageRank (Google) is that it is topic sensitive, andis thus generally harder to manipulate than buying some random high-power off-topic link. The benefits of Hilltop over topic distillation (the algorithm that powersAsk.com, which will be discussed later) are that Hilltop is quicker and cheaper tocalculate and that it tends to have more broad coverage.When Hilltop does not have enough expert sites, the feature can be turned off, andresults can be organized using a global popularity score, such as PageRank.
168Google might be using Hilltop to help sort the relevancy for some of their searchresults, but I also see some fairly competitive search queries where three of my sitesrank in the top eight results. On those three sites, it would be fairly obvious forsearch engines to know that they were all owned by me.They may use something like Hilltop to scrub the value of some nepotistic links,but it will not wipe out all related sites just because they are related. When yousearch for things like Microsoft, it makes sense that many of the most relevantwebsites are owned by the same company.Topic-Sensitive PageRank (TSPR)Topic-Sensitive PageRank biases both the query and the relevancy of returneddocuments based upon the perceived topical context of the query. The querycontext can be determined based on search history, user-defined input (such assearch personalization—try Google Labs Search Personalization if you areinterested) or related information in the document from which the query came (ifpeople searched Google from a site search box, for example).Topic-Sensitive PageRank for each page can be calculated offline. Using anexceptionally coarse topic set (for example, the top level Open Directory Projectcategories) still allows Topic-Sensitive PageRank to significantly enhance relevancyover using PageRank alone; however, TSPR can be applied more specifically aswell.Since much of it is calculated offline, Topic-Specific PageRank can also be rolledinto other relevancy algorithms that are calculated in near real time.I do not think it is exceptionally important for most webmasters to deeplyunderstand TSPR and Hilltop, other than to understand the intent of thesealgorithms. Instead of grading the web on the whole, they would prefer to evaluateit based upon local topical communities.Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)Latent semantic indexing allows machines to understand language by looking at itfrom a purely mathematical viewpoint. Here is a brief description of how it works:Latent semantic indexing adds an important step to thedocument indexing process. In addition to recording whichkeywords a document contains, the method examines thedocument collection as a whole, to see which other documentscontain some of those same words. LSI considers documentsthat have many words in common to be semantically close, andones with few words in common to be semantically distant. Thissimple method correlates surprisingly well with how a humanbeing, looking at content, might classify a document collection.Although the LSI algorithm doesn’t understand anything aboutwhat the words mean, the patterns it notices can make it seemastonishingly intelligent.
169http://www.seobook.com/lsi/cover_page.htmGoogle bought a company called Applied Semantics, which had a technologycalled CIRCA, which is a natural language processing technology used toconceptually understand content for targeting AdSense ads. They may use it betterunderstand page content and refine their search relevancy as well.Latent semantic indexing is a rather expensive process, and many SEO expertsdebate to what extent major search engines may be using the technology. IfGoogle is not using LSI, then I am certain they are using a similar technology.If you are knowledgeable about a topic and write naturally about a topic you are farmore likely to write semantically sound copy than if you are writing for keyworddensity or some outdated SEO technique.Most webmasters do not need to know much about LSI other than to know thatmixing their inbound link anchor text is important and that LSI-likealgorithms rank natural writing better than clumsy, machine-writtencontent focused on things like keyword density.Here is an image from Quintura.com that shows some keywords semanticallyrelated to SEO. As you scroll over any of the related words it also allows you todig deeper into words semantically related to those words.Temporal AnalysisSearch engines can track how long things (sites, pages, links) have been in existenceand how quickly they change. They can track a huge amount of data such as" How long a domain has been in existence" How often page copy changes" How much page copy changes
170" How large a site is" How quickly the site size changes" How quickly link popularity builds" How long any particular link exists" How similar the link text is" How a site changes in rank over time" How related linking sites are" How natural linkage data looksIn some cases, it makes sense for real websites to acquire a bunch of linkage data ina burst. When news stories about a topic and search volumes on a particular termare high, it would also make sense that some sites may acquire a large amount oflinkage data. If that link growth is natural, many of those links will be from high-quality, active, frequently-updated sites. Unless you are doing viral marketing mostof the time, if links build naturally, they build more slowly and evenly.If links build in huge spikes from low-quality sites, then search engines maydiscount—or even apply a penalty—to the domain receiving that linkage data.Stale pages may also be lowered in relevancy if other pages in the same topic arereferenced or updated more regularly. A page may be considered fresh if itchanges somewhat frequently or if it continues to acquire linkage data as timepasses. Certain types of queries (like news related ones, for instance) may improvescoring for fresh documents.Google may also look at how often your site is bookmarked, how frequentlypeople search for your brand, how frequently people click on your listing, whoyour advertisers are, and other various feedback they can get from their toolbar.Google was awarded a patent on March 31, 2005 covering these types of topics,but put forth in much greater detail than I have done here. While I do not thinkthey are already necessarily doing all the things they mention in the patent, I thinkthey may eventually use many of them. The patent is interesting and worth readingif you are deeply interested in SEO and information retrieval. If you do not wantto read it, you may want to look at the Threadwatch post (URL:http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2115) that mentioned it and the follow- up thread(URL: http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2132).TrustRankTrustRank is an algorithm that can be used to bias PageRank by placing additionalauthority on human-reviewed, trusted sites. Trust propagates out from the trustedpages and sites to pages and sites they link to. TrustRank also can be used to
171neutralize the effects of some types of low-quality link building from untrustedsources as well as to flag high-PageRank, low-trust websites for human review.In the TrustRank research paper, the seed sites fit the following criteria:" Seed sites linked to many other websites. DMOZ and the Yahoo!Directory, for example, were most likely seed sites." Seed sites were controlled by major corporations, educational bodies,or governmental bodies.I believe TrustRank (or a similar algorithm) is a huge part of Google’scurrent search algorithm. If you look at a link through the eyes of a searchengineer or search editor, rather than just looking at PageRank, you would do farbetter in terms of evaluating the value of a link.Look at a site and ask yourself questions like, “Is this the type of site I would use asa seed site?” If the answer to that is “no,” then ask, “Is this site directly orindirectly associated with seed sites?” and “Why would quality seed sites want tolink to this site or sites linking to this site?”Topic Sensitive TrustRankSince TrustRank is topic-independent, it could place too much relevancy on topicsthat are overrepresented in the seed set of trusted sites. Thus you could useDMOZ or the Yahoo! Directory to help extend out the seeded sites to a broaderarray of sites and topically bias their TrustRank score based on the categories inwhich they are listed. You could then filter out the bottom half of trusted sites ineach category to prevent too many spam sites from being selected as trust sources.There is significant effort being placed on looking for ways to move the PageRankmodel to a model based upon trust and local communities.Link Spam Detection Based on Mass EstimationTrustRank mainly works to give a net boost to good, trusted links. Link SpamDetection Based on Mass Estimation was a research paper aimed at killing theeffectiveness of low-quality links. Essentially the thesis of this paper was that youcould determine what percent of a site’s direct and indirect link popularity comefrom spammy locations and automate spam detection based on that.The research paper is a bit complex, but many people have digested it. I posted onit at http://www.seobook.com/archives/001342.shtml.Due to the high cost of producing quality information versus the profitability andscalability of spam, most pages on the web are spam. No matter what you do, ifyou run a quality website, you are going to have some spammy websites link to youand/or steal your content. Because my name is Aaron Wall, some idiots keptposting links to my sites on their “wall clock” spam site.
172The best way to fight this off is not to spend lots of time worrying about spammylinks, but to spend the extra time to build some links that could be trusted to offsetthe effects of spammy links.Algorithms like the spam mass estimation research are going to be based onrelative size. Since quality links typically have more PageRank (or authority bywhatever measure they chose to use) than most spam links, you can probably getaway with having 40 or 50 spammy links for every real, quality link.Another interesting bit mentioned in the research paper was that generally the webfollows power laws. This quote might be as clear as mud, so I will clarify it shortly.A number of recent publications propose link spam detectionmethods. For instance, Fetterly et al. [Fetterly et al., 2004]analyze the indegree and outdegree distributions of web pages.Most web pages have in- and outdegrees that follow a power-law distribution. Occasionally, however, search enginesencounter substantially more pages with the exact same in- oroutdegrees than what is predicted by the distribution formula.The authors find that the vast majority of such outliers are spampages.Indegrees and outdegrees above refer to link profiles, specifically to inbound links andoutbound links. Most spam generator software and bad spam techniques leaveobvious mathematical footprints.If you are using widely hyped and marketed spam site generator software, most ofit is likely going to be quickly discounted by link analysis algorithms since manyother people will be creating thousands of similar sites with similar link profiles andsimilar footprints.Human ReviewGoogle claims everything is done algorithmically, but they need to refine thealgorithms and test the relevancy of their results with humans. In June of 2005.Henk van Ess of SearchBistro posted a remote, search-relevancy-quality raterdocument and a spam document on his site.These documents showed how Google asks remote “raters” to review searchresults. Even if the review input is not directly used to alter the search results, theguidance in the documents shows what Google wants. One of the documents wasdated December 2003, so Google has been using human quality raters for a greatlength of time.I would link to the documents, but I believe that GoogleGuy asked that they notbe posted, and they may be taken down. I did an overview of the documents athttp://www.seobook.com/archives/000917.shtml. The highlights are the following:" Most search spam sites are heavily automated and provide little useful,unique, or compelling content to the end user.
173" If people would have no reason to want to view an affiliate site insteadof going directly to the merchant, then the site is to be rated asoffensive." For long-term success of affiliate sites, or bare-bone merchant sites, ithelps to add some value-added service that would make people want tovisit your site instead of your competitors’.Supplemental IndexGoogle has an auxiliary index where it stores some documents it may not trustenough to include in its regular index. Supplemental search results are used toprovide search results when not enough regular search results are available. Whydo sites get put in the supplemental results?" Newness. If a site is new and does not have many inbound links, someof its pages may end up in the supplemental results until the site buildsup its popularity and ages a bit. This is typical for some new URLsthat have not been crawled yet." Duplicate content. For example, giving a search engine multiple URLswith the same content or a directory full of empty categories with nearsimilar content on every page" Too many variables in the URL" Host was down when Google tried to crawl" Too many low-quality outbound links" Too many low-quality inbound links" Any combination of the aboveYou can see what percent of a site is indexed by comparing the Google search for“site:www.example.com” to “site:www.example.com <signature text>,” where“signature text” is text that appears on every page.Since pages in the supplemental results are not trusted as much as pages in theregular index, it is likely that Google rarely crawls and places low or no weight onlinks from many of the pages in the supplemental results.Perfect LinksGoogle using multiple algorithms in conjunction can allow them to placeexceptional positive bias on links that fit most or all their bolt on relevancyboosting algorithms. This means the best links are those from the following places:" Well-trusted sites (think of sites that were chosen as seed sites orlinked to from seed sites in the TrustRank algorithm)" Sites that are on your theme" Pages on that site that are about your topic, which is linked to frommany sites on your topic, and also link to other resources similar toyour site
174o The anchor text of these pages would include some versions ofyour primary keywordso The link would drive direct, targeted traffic that may convert tosales or secondary citations from other trusted sites" Pages that rank well in the search results for your topic" Sites that are easy to link to and hard to get a link from" Sites that are well-readHow to Succeed in GoogleGoogle is harder to manipulate than the other search engines, and Google tends totrust new sites much less than their competitors do. If you run a new website, donot expect to rank well in Google for competitive queries until AFTER you rankwell in Yahoo! and MSN.If you have an old, well-trusted domain but have not focused on SEO yet, thendoing simple things like fixing up your page titles and gaining a few authoritative ordescriptive inbound links might be all you need to do.Matt Cutts describes his overview of the SEO process in this audio interview:http://www.mikegrehan.com/audio/mattcutts/seoclip.mp3Note how he states that it is a process and you need a certain amount of authoritybefore you will be able to compete in Google.Google is quick to index new sites, usually within a few days to a month(depending on the quality and quantity of your inbound links). During the firstmonth or two, it is common for your site to go into and out of their database manytimes until you have built up sufficient link popularity. Link building can help getyour site indexed and keep you in the index.Google primarily focuses its algorithm on linkage data. On-page criteria isweighted exceptionally low for shorter and highly competitive search phrases. Todo well in Google, you will need to target low-competition phrases using manydifferent pages, or think of ways to get others within your community to want tolink to your site. Some of the more common ideas for improving your linkreputation are to do the following things:" Join trade organizations." List your site in quality directories." Submit press releases via sites such as http://www.prweb.com. Using PRWeb and paying $80 can get you distribution in Google news andYahoo! News. Press releases should usually be newsworthy, althoughmost of them tend to be pure crap. I believe Google news has a 65-character limit on its titles, and Yahoo! has a 150-character limit. Bothtend to favor longer copy around the 400- to 600-word range, althougha short useful press release is better than a long useless one. You canlook at a few current press releases on PR Web, Google news, orYahoo! news for formatting examples. Don Crowther has good PDFThe easiest way to getnatural-looking qualitylinkage data is to createsomething people wouldwant to link to withoutyou needing to ask them.Google is much betterthan its competitors atcounting only qualitylinks as votes.
175reports offering templates and press release tips athttp://www.101publicrelations.com/. SEO-PR.com also creates pressreleases for an affordable rate." Create a quality, topical directory one level above your category(slightly broader). By giving links to others in your field, some of themmight take notice of your presence." Write an interesting blog about your topic. Link out to recognizedtopical authorities." Write compelling articles and get them syndicated." Sponsor 501(c) tax-exempt organizations (or buy/rent other links) orsponsor other sites." Reciprocate links with other quality sites. It is hard to get quality sitesto want to reciprocate until you are somewhat integrated into the web,have built a brand, or are trusted for other reasons, so it may not beworth chasing reciprocal links too hard off the start." Place advertisements on relevant, related sites." To keep your link profile looking natural to Google, make sure youmix your anchor text heavily and get at least a few links from high-quality sites." When your site is brand new, if you take a less is more approach to linkbuilding, and only focus on gaining authoritative high-quality links, thatwill help you more than an aggressive campaign where you activelybuild many low-quality links.You will still want to structure your pages properly using heading tags, page titles,and the other page elements to help you rank well in all search engines, but current,quality links are what matter most with Google.Off-topic links still count toward your link popularity. If you already have manylinks from within your community, then you may receive a great ranking boost bysponsoring a few non-profits or by renting a few, strong, inbound links from otherwebsites. If you are in a competitive field, you need to build many on-topic links.Be careful with how above the radar you are with link buys though. Established,trusted, and well-branded sites can get away with using far more aggressive SEOtechniques than a new site could.Anchor text is important, but all throughout 2006 Google depreciated the effect ofanchor text and started placing more weighting on link authority and domain agerelated trust.It can take up to three months for your inbound links to help improve yourGoogle rankings for competitive search terms. If Google believes your site is atrusted authority, the delay time will not really exist. With Google, you want tobuild linkage data over time to minimize the chances of it appearing unnatural.Link Searching Tips
176The most time-consuming part of SEO is building a linking campaign. Tools orideas that help us save time doing this are extremely valuable." You can classify domain extension or specific site ideas whensearching for potential links:o “Inurl:+".edu” ando “intitle:links” or “intitle:partners” or “intitle:resources” or“intitle:engines” ando “searchenginewatch” or “search engine watch”" In Google you are not able to use the “link:” function with otheradvanced search operators at the same time; in Yahoo! or MSNyou can." Filtering out a site can be exceptionally helpful. If there is aspecific site that is clouding up your link search, you can filter them outby placing “-site:www.whateverevilsite.com” in your search string.Who is in Your Community?Google TouchGraph graphs out sites related sites (by looking at the Googlerelated:site.com function). If your related sites do not consist of sites topicallyrelated to your site, then you need to work on getting more people inside yourcommunity to link to your site. The following is a picture of my topicalcommunity. You can see many of the sites are exceptionally related to my site.Google and SpamGoogle is primarily a mathematical company, and they usually state that they try tohandle spam via algorithms.
177While the term algorithm can be used loosely, there is human intervention.However, they do not specifically respond to most spam reports. You can reportspam to them, but do not expect it to have much immediate effect on searchresults. Generally, time spent reporting spam to Google would be better spentmaking a better site. Also, some competitors can get a bit feisty if they are snitchedon. I know a guy that got so mad at being turned in, that a month later he ranked1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 10. He then e-mailed the snitch thanking him for themotivation to create all those other pages.If your site is kicked out of the index for an automated spam penalty, it will usuallycome back after 60 days after the thing that triggered the spam penalty has beenremoved. If your site was manually reviewed and removed, the penalty periodmight be much longer.You can send Google a re-inclusion request via a form on their site after you havecleaned up your site explaining a sob story of how some SEO company ripped youoff. They prefer to receive this feedback from within their webmaster consolebecause it shows that you are related to the site you are requesting a re-inclusionfor. The key is to let them know that whatever was wrong will not happen again.If you are still having problems after e-mailing them a few times, you can call themat 650-330-0100. Google usually will not reply to most bans. If your site ismanually banned for industrial strength spam, you stand a slim chance of gettingback in the index unless you are a large advertiser, have a well-known brand, or yougetting banned was a large public issue.While they do not openly and publicly advertise it, I have been told by a few bigspenders on Google AdWords that they have received low-level, one-on-oneranking consultations.In addition to banning sites from the index, Google also has numerous filters theyapply. For example, sites with excessive duplicate content may end up in thesupplemental results. In addition, sites with excessive low-quality inbound oroutbound links may be placed on a reduced crawl priority or have a -30 rankingpenalty applied.Google’s webmaster guidelines are located at:http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.htmlProblems with Google’s TechnologyJeff Dean, a Google engineer, also talks about Google’s technology a bit in thisvideo at: http://www.uwtv.org/programs/displayevent.asp?rid=2459.Since Google has the broadest distribution, people also work the hardest to gametheir system.Google tends to take the view that any relevancy manipulation is inherently wrongand the SEOs are the enemy. In doing this, Google often prevents many qualityresources from ranking and ends up having substandard relevancy. It seems they
178would rather make their own results slightly substandard than allow others tomanipulate their index.Currently, Google’s algorithms place way too much emphasis on domain age andtrust. This will lead to a stale index, and worse yet, many spammers have beenbuying old sites (or finding content management issues trusted sites) and addingtons of spammy content to them. A relevant thread worth reading about how easyit is to game Google with old domains can be found athttp://www.threadwatch.org/node/6484.You can also use SEO for Firefox or Archive.org to see how old the average, top-ranked site is for your primary keywords. Typically the top-ranked Google resultswill be older than the top-ranked results on other search engines.Google & Duplicate ContentSince December 2004, webmasters have been noticing Google has been tweakingtheir duplicate content filters. If you have many pages with near similar content,then they may struggle to rank in Google.If you rewrite your URLs, make sure they are not getting indexed under the oldand new URLs. Also, ensure print only and other versions of similar content arenot getting indexed. WebmasterWorld had a good thread about the topicmentioned here: http://www.seobook.com/archives/001230.shtml.As automated spam spreads and rich consumer feedback is posted to the web,hollow merchant sites will be forced out of the Google search results, which is atrend that has been going on for a couple years now.The best solution to that problem is to be able to collect rich user feedback on yoursite or find other value add ideas to differentiate your site from websites that arehollow product databases.Wildcard ReplaceWhen search engines compare one page to the next for uniqueness of content,they can use sliding text readers across the text. This is one of the things that hurtsmany information-light product catalog databases. If one page is like Cheap greenbaby seat blah blah blah and the next page is like Cheap red baby seat blah blah blah thenwhen the search engine compares Cheap * baby seat blah blah blah, both of the pageswill appear identical.Search engines do not want to index multiple copies of identical content.If the only difference between template-driven pages on your site is part numberyou may eventually run into problems where you notice search engines do notwant to index much of your site.WWW versus Non-WWW
179Some search engines may view site.com and www.site.com as being two differentURLs. If you split your link popularity amongst both versions, you will have lessauthority on each version than if the two were combined.To prevent both versions from getting indexed, you may want to 301 redirect oneversion at the other version.Informational BiasYahoo! has a tool called Yahoo! Mindset that allows you to place greater emphasison commercial or informational results.By default, Google tends to bias the search results heavily toward informationalresources. This makes business sense for them for many reasons:" They want to promote creating additional search inventory toshow search ads against. As inventory is created, they can demandmore out of new content by biasing their algorithms to work harder atpromoting the creation of higher quality content." As more information clogs up the search results, more searcherswill click on AdWords for commercial searches. Merchants arethen stuck using AdWords for commercial transactions." Many informational sites are monetized using contextual adssuch as Google AdSense.Google HijackingSometimes people can hijack the search results of other webmasters. This is ratheruncommon in most fields, but if you get into high-margin areas, such asprescription drugs, it is much more common.In May of 2005, Google actually had one of their sites hijacked. Notice below howthe Google AdSense site is showing up as being part of the all-in-one-business.comdomain.
180After that happened Google changed their facts & fiction page to include thefollowing:There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm yourranking or have your site removed from our index. Yourrank and your inclusion are dependent on factors under yourcontrol as a webmaster, including content choices and sitedesign.While the hijackings are uncommon, if you are going to play in hyper-competitivefields, make sure you make friends with some people who can help you out ofsticky situations. People usually do hijacks via 302 redirects, meta redirects, or acombination of the two. An unwritten law amongst many of the most aggressiveSEOs is that you should never hijack a listing, and you should never file a spamreport. If you do, most likely you will not like some of the retaliation actions thatother webmasters may do.
181Froogle & Google BaseFroogle is Google’s shopping search engine. Via Google Base, it accepts freemerchant product feeds. It also searches the web to find products and match themup with their associated images as a backfill.To optimize your site for great Froogle listings, you will either want to make surethat your site is designed to make it obvious which pictures go with what prices anddescriptions, or submit a data feed. It is a good idea to use descriptive imagenames and titles as well as use your keywords in the data you submit to get topFroogle placement.Yahoo! SearchWhat is Yahoo! Search?The Yahoo! Directory and Yahoo! Search are two entirely separate things. Thedirectory is a manually reviewed collection of websites. Yahoo! Search is poweredthrough various search technologies purchased by Yahoo!Yahoo! Search probably serves over 100 million searches each day. The directorywould likely be lucky to serve more than a million searches a day.Yahoo! Search is powered through a rewrite and combination of different pieces ofwhat was once AltaVista, AllTheWeb, and Inktomi.Yahoo! Search DistributionYahoo! technology now powers around 25% of U.S. search including Yahoo!,AllTheWeb, AltaVista, and many other sites that syndicate or use portions of thesesearch indexes.Yahoo! places pay-per-click ads at the top and bottom of Yahoo! search results in ablue box and also places ads on the right side of search results. On some of theirpartner sites, these ads are blended so that they look very similar to regular searchresults.Yahoo! also has a paid-inclusion program by the name of Yahoo! Search Submitthat allows them to generate revenue from the regular (organic) listings. Generally,I do not recommend using their paid inclusion program.
182The Yahoo! Search Index is SharedThe Yahoo! Search index is also used by AltaVista and AllTheWeb. Each of thesesearch engine websites may still use their own algorithm to organize search resultsfrom the common search index and Yahoo! may use AltaVista and AllTheWeb astest beds for some new algorithms.Editorial Approach to SearchYahoo! believes that a hybrid of human review and mathematics works better thanjust math alone. Sites included in the Yahoo! Directory or in the Yahoo! SearchSubmit program are given an editorial review. Yahoo! also has their editors reviewportions of the web. It is believed that sites that receive a review may be given aranking boost. Yahoo! grants 501(c) tax-exempt organizations and manyeducational websites free inclusion into the free side of their Content AcquisitionProgram.What Pages of My Site are Indexed by Yahoo!?You can check to see what pages of your site are indexed by searching Yahoo! for“www.mysite.com.” While Yahoo! also offers a free site submit option (you mustbe logged in to use it), the best way to submit your site is by having Yahoo!’s spiderfollow links from other web pages.Where do I Rank for My Keyword in Yahoo!?Shawn Hogan’s Digital Point keyword ranking tracker allows webmasters to tracktheir Google, Yahoo!, and MSN rankings for free, although it will require you toplace a php page on your server.You can also look for other Yahoo! SEO Tools at the Yahoo! Developer Network.
183Yahoo! Backlink CheckBacklinks is another way of saying “links into a page.”When you check backlinks in Yahoo!, (‘linkdomain:www.whateversite.com’), itshows most of the known links into a site. Yahoo! has also had some trouble with301 redirects and may show the wrong URL locations for some of the backlinks.You can check the backlinks into your home page specifically by specifying the fullURL of the home page (“link:http://www.whateversite.com/”).You can check the links pointing into any specific page on a site using theirindividual page link check command(link:http://www.site.com/folder/page.html). Make sure to include the “http:”part when checking links pointing into individual pages.Yahoo! will also let you look through most of a competitors’ backlinks. Theiradvanced search page allows you to specify a domain type as well. This makes iteasy to see if they have any .gov, .edu, or other high-power backlinks that may bewell trusted based upon the domain extension. You can also subtract out theirinternal links or links from other specific domains by adding ‘–site:othersite.com’ inyour link search query.Yahoo! and Meta TagsMike Grehan interviewed Jon Glick of Yahoo! Search, and he stated that the metadescription tag is treated similar to page content. He also stated that the metakeywords tag is used for inclusion into a subset of search results, but has no effecton relevancy. I also covered the issue of meta tags above in the meta tag sectionearlier in this e-book.Yahoo! AnswersYahoo! created a free question-answering service and includes many of thesequestions and answers in their search results.The idea of integrating Yahoo! user questions and answers directly into the searchresults shows how much Yahoo! wants to keep their users on the Yahoo.comdomain and how much Yahoo! wants to be the most important content site on theweb. Compare that strategy to Google who wants to send away visitors as quicklyas possible and hope they come back.How to do Well in Yahoo!Yahoo! usually lists a site within about a month. The best way to get your sitesubmitted is by building a strong linking campaign. If you need to get your siteindexed quickly, Yahoo! does have a paid inclusion program, which I generally donot recommend using for most websites. Submit Express is recommended forlarge databases that are hard to crawl, sites with rapidly rotating inventory, eventYahoo! puts heavyweighting on page copy.Using descriptive pagetitles, headers, andsubheaders can go a longway to improve yourrankings in Yahoo!.
184sites on a tight deadline, or sites that need the tracking provided by the SubmitExpress program.While also factoring in linkage data, Yahoo! Search places a bit more weight on on-the-page factors than Google does. Yahoo! Search results are far easier tomanipulate than Google’s search results.To do well in Yahoo! Search, your pages should have a decent keywordprominence and be properly structured using descriptive heading tags,subheadings, descriptive linking, and navigation (as mentioned above in the “Howto Optimize Your Pages” part of this e-book).High rankings for more competitive terms will require you to build a linkingcampaign. Yahoo! Search is not as discriminatory as Google is with scrubbing outbad links. Off-topic inbound links are still somewhat powerful to help improveyour Yahoo! rankings, though it is usually best to get links from similar sites whenpossible.At the 2004 Las Vegas WebmasterWorld World of Search Conference, Yahoo!stated that they prefer if you have somewhat shallow directory paths of three or solevels deep or less.example: www.mysite.com/cheese/cheddar/sharp/yummie.html = goodexample: www.mysite.com/chs/chd/shrp/eat/now/today/yummie.html= badAt the 2004 Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference, Jon Glick stated thatYahoo! looks at both the links to a page and the links to the site to help determinethe relevancy scores of a particular page. While Google does not clearly state whatthey do, it is quite clear that a page on a trusted authoritative domain will outrankthe same content on a newer domain with lest trust.Why Yahoo! is Somewhat Focused on On-The-PageCriteriaYahoo! has a paid inclusion program that allows them to generate revenue frompeople who join their paid inclusion program. By relying on page content, Yahoo!makes it easier for its paid inclusion members (or other editorially reviewed contentparticipants) to improve their rankings. I cover paid inclusion in depth near theend of this e-book in a section called “paid inclusion.”While Google’s search results seem to be tuned to informational websites, Yahoo!’salgorithms are tuned more toward commercial websites. Google has littleinformation of their own, so they need to make their results as informational aspossible to leverage the value created by small, independent publishers to get biggerpublishing companies to want to give up more of their content.Yahoo! is perhaps the single largest content site on the web. They do not mind iftheir search results are a bit biased toward commercial results because they ideallywant people to read, use, and share Yahoo! content.
185Yahoo! and SpamYahoo! actively edits spam out of their search results. If someone with whom youare competing is not complying with Yahoo!’s guidelines, you may want to pointthat out to Yahoo!. There is a chance that Yahoo! will remove your competitor’ssite if they deem it as spam. Again, most of the time it is recommended that youdo not use spam reports unless you are prepared for webmasters to play hardball.Since it is easy to get de-listed via a manual review, it is suggested that you not useoverly aggressive, spammy techniques to achieve top Yahoo! placement unless youcan afford to burn the URL. Also, do not submit your site to their paid inclusionprogram if it does not have original and unique content or if your site may berejected and removed from their search index.If your site gets de-indexed from Yahoo! and you think it was due to not followingtheir editorial guidelines, then clean up the spammy stuff and submit your site tothe Yahoo! Search Submit Express program. Submitting your site will get itreviewed and re-crawled by Yahoo! Slurp if the editors see your site has been fixed.If your page was removed and you cannot afford Yahoo! Search Submit Express,read the Yahoo! spam guidelines (http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysear...letions-05.html)and request a site review at http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/us/ysearch/cgi_rereview. Ifthat does not work you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.Additionally, Yahoo! has a search help page that may help answer some of yourquestions about their search technology:http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysearch/index.html.Yahoo! and Affiliate Web SitesYahoo! tries to edit out many of the “site in a box”-type affiliate sites as well as anycontent that does not add value to your search experience. Yahoo! does not hateaffiliate websites, they hate unoriginal, replicated content, as it degrades the qualityof their search results if a searcher sees the same things over and over again.It does not hurt you to have affiliate links on your website as long as you also havesome original content. It is also worth noting that some search engines may alsohave custom algorithms designed to detect and demote thin affiliate sites.The Problems With Yahoo!’s TechnologySince Yahoo! actively edits their search results, they will be forced to edit them overand over.After they remove a site for spam, it is very easy for someone to duplicate that site(and maybe even use a slightly altered version) at another location.Yahoo! could also use a bit of coaching on determining the difference betweeneditorial votes and spammy links. Some of my clients outrank their own
186manufacturers for their manufacturer’s brand name in Yahoo!. That is just flat outbad relevancy to make it that easy to manipulate.Yahoo! MindsetSome searches are commercial in nature, and some are informational in nature.Major search engines have the ability to distinguish which search queries are morelikely to be commercial and which search queries are more likely to beinformational.Search engines can also classify whether they think a particular result is commercialor informational in nature. In the search results, search engines like to show a mixof result types so that they have a greater chance of solving the searchers needs.Yahoo! Mindset is a beta test tool that allows Yahoo! searchers to bias the resultstoward commercial or informational type resources.New Yahoo! PatentYahoo! filed a patent application on May 12, 2005 for using My Yahoo! data tohelp improve search relevancy. Bill Slawski links to the patent and reviews it athttp://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=24500.The major search engines are working hard to get a large enough collection of userdata to be able to use it to augment link analysis in determining search relevancy.MicrosoftMSN is one of the top three search properties. MSN Search switched fromYahoo! Search to MSN’s technology on February 1st, 2005. MSN has about 10%market share. MSN is trying to win search volume by offering prizes to searchersand has picked up Amazon as a search distribution partner.Their pay-per-click ads are delivered via the Microsoft adCenter platform.Currently they place a few ads at the top and bottom and some in the right rail,similar to how Yahoo! displays ads.
187MSN has a “search near me” feature. Sites can gain a relevancy boost in localsearch results if they use their address on their site using the following format:1 Microsoft Way Redmond, WA, 98052Many of their search results show pages based primarily on page content. TheMSN Search technology is also somewhat easy to manipulate with bulk, non-themed, low-quality links and other old, basic level, SEO strategies such as spammydomain names, descriptive page titles and internal linking, and keyword-richcontent. One friend told me that it reminded him of Yahoo! Search from threeyears ago (as in sooooo easy to spam).In February 2005, I started a new site and through about $2,000 worth of linkbuilding, I had the site ranked top 10 in MSN for a frequently searched $5-per-clickword within two weeks. One of the major problems with building all that low-quality linkage so quickly was that it made top Google rankings take a much longertime to achieve.MSN search uses clustering algorithms. Some pages and sites may rank for relatedphrases that do not even occur on them. At one point in time their clusteringresults for my name showed the company that sued me ranking #5, in spite ofhaving no relevant page copy or link anchor text.Their search will likely evolve rapidly throughout the next couple years. You canlearn more about the MSN Search product through the following websites:" Their blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/msnsearch" Their site owner suggestion guidelines athttp://search.msn.com/docs/siteowner.aspx." Andy Edmonds and Erik Selberg discussion of MSN’s search technologyin this hour-long video:http://blogs.msdn.com/msnsearch/archive/2005/10/22/483846.aspx.
188In addition, you can get the latest news about MSN’s ad product by visiting theiradCenter blog http://blogs.msdn.com/adcenter/. Toward the end of 2006, MSN alsohopes to beta launch a contextual ad network.Microsoft and SpamIn November of 2006, Microsoft sent some webmasters emails stating that theirwebsites were removed from Microsoft for off-topic link exchanges and otherforms of link spamming. Many blogspot subdomains and just about every otherform of spam is still effective in Microsoft’s results.How to do Well in MicrosoftSpammy stuff still works great with MSN. Even a web novice can probably rankfor many semi-competitive terms in MSN within a week or two just by submittingtheir site to a bunch of directories and writing articles for a bunch of articlesyndication sites.However, keep in mind that if you push too hard for MSN you may be doing so atthe expense of future Google rankings. Microsoft a long way to go to becomerelevant, as indicated by their diminishing search market share.AskAsk Search DistributionAsk has a distribution of around 4% of the U.S. search through Lycos, Ask.com,Excite, My Way, and iWon. For a number of years, My Way was the default homepage on Dell computers, but more recently Google partnered with Dell.InterActiveCorp bought out Ask and cross promotes Ask on their other propertiessuch as Expedia.com, Ticketmaster.com, and Match.com.On the Ask site, they blend Google AdWords ads at the beginning of search resultson highly commercial terms. You can also buy Ask pay-per-click ads directly. Askwill display internal ads for a particular search query only if they feel they will makemore money from them than from running AdWords ads. Ask also sells banner-based advertising and Kelkoo product ads for some of their more expensive words.Pay-per-click advertising is covered further in the “pay-per-click” section of this e-book. I probably would not recommend buying Ask ads directly unless you have
189some compelling reason to believe they would have a significant volume of high-quality traffic for your keywords.Below is a screenshot of the results part of an Ask results page:What is Teoma and How Does it Work?Teoma is the search engine that powers Ask. In early 2006, Ask killed the Teomabrand and the Teoma.com website, but Teoma is still the search technology usedto power Ask.The core of the Teoma search technology is based upon the idea that society andthe Internet consist of tiny communities that self-organize themselves into hubsand authorities.Hubs and AuthoritiesAn authority is a site that is linked to by many sites and pages covering that topic.A hub links to many relevant topical sites. It is said that a good authority has linksfrom many good hubs, and good hubs link to many good authorities.If you read search engine papers and information mining topics such as latentsemantic indexing and multi-dimensional scaling, you can learn how some of thosetechnologies are similar to what Teoma does. LSI works at understanding wordrelationships, but Teoma looks at understanding link relationships between pageswithin communities.Search engines create a reverse index of all the terms in their index. For example,maybe 10,000,000 pages have the word cheese in them. After a user searches,Teoma will look at the local term space to find similar terms to cheese and the local
190communities that surround those topics. Teoma takes a snapshot of the area andbases most of its rankings off of local interconnectivity of that subset of searchresults.Below is an oversimplified image. Notice how pages that link to the same pagesmay be assumed to be related. Also, pages that are linked to from a common pagemay also be deemed as related.In the image, “E” may or may not be an authority page, depending on what type oflink it is. If a page has a link from only one hub, then it may not be topicallyrelated. For example, many hosts or web designers add “designed by” or “hostedby” links on some client websites.When Teoma is Most EffectiveTeoma works more effectively at organizing data in larger developed categorieswhere there are many links pointing back and forth to reinforce the structure of acommunity.Are Hubs Confusing?Teoma is focused onlocal/topical communities.The best way to rank wellin Teoma is to link out touseful related sites and getmany related sites to linkto your site.
191If you are still a bit confused about the terms hub and authority, you can use a freetool I created called Hub Finder to help you understand and visualize what huband authority pages are. Notice how the hub sites link at multiple authorities.You can think of online communities in the same way as you think of cities andtowns offline. The biggest exception to that analogy is that the online communitiescan be based around common ideas, hobbies, or points of interest, in addition togeographically.Effect of Links on TeomaTeoma does most of its link evaluation after the user searches and primarilyfocuses on local communities. Several things result from this system:" It is hard to measure link popularity in Teoma." Off-topic links have extremely little effect on Teoma’s search results." On-topic links are exceptionally important.How to do Well in AskAsk is usually one of the slower engines at picking up new websites. The averagetime for picking up new sites is about a month and a half.Since the primary focus of Ask is on local communities, it can take a long time torank well in it. You will need to find ways to embed yourself in the correct localcommunities to list well for competitive terms. Social interaction is key.Ask has two sections to its search engine results pages. The results section is filledwith the sites that are considered the authority websites. They also provide a“refine” section. This section lists other terms in the local, associated, term space.For example, cheese may have phrases like cheddar in the refine section.
192Due to their small market share, their slow crawl speed, and their reliance on linksfrom topical experts, I would not worry about ranking in Ask. I would probablyspend most of my time focusing on the engines with a greater reach.Ask and SpamI do not know a lot about Asks spam policies, as they rarely come up in discussiondue to their small market share.The Problems with Teoma’s TechnologySince Teoma is so focused on local communities, it is easy for people to spoof falsetopical authority onto a site by creating many sites within a specific theme thatcommonly link to the spoof site and other randomized authoritative sites on thattopic.Since Teoma does not provide a ton of traffic, there is less of a strain on theiralgorithm by people manipulating search results than there is on Google, Yahoo!,or MSN.Comparing Search ResultsSince different search engines weigh different parts of their algorithms differently,they can all have similar relevancy while having significantly different search results.Some people are quick to ask how their sites are being penalized in one searchengine because they rank well in others. While many sites do get penalized foraggressive spamming techniques, most sites that do not rank well usually just fail tosatisfy the specific ranking algorithm for that specific engine in question." Google is primarily focused on site age and link based authority. Theyare much better than their competitors at determining which links arelegitimate editorial citations." Yahoo! focuses a bit more on on-the-page content while still relying adecent amount on link popularity." MSN is like Yahoo!, but even easier to manipulate with low-qualitylinks, aggressive anchor text, and keyword prominence." Teoma is focused on local communities.It is far easier to spend a good bit of time learning how to get links versusconstantly tweaking pages over and over again. I do not worry much about thingslike keyword density. I know that Yahoo! usually likes content to be a bit morekeyword rich and Google (which is spending millions of dollars to scan books)usually prefers more natural reading content.While the on-page criteria can vary from engine to engine, the ability of off-pagefactors to raise your rankings is limitless. Different search engines will evaluate
193different links in different ways. In general, they all like links pointing to yourwebsite, especially links from authoritative sites related to your field.Thumbshots has a cool ranking tool that shows you how sites rank in differentsearch engines, so you can compare how well different algorithms overlap oneanother. Due to heavy load, this tool is not available all the time.MyriadSearch.com is another site that makes it easy to see the overlap between themajor search engines.Interactive ElementsSoftwareArchive.org: shows the age of a website (http://www.archive.org/)Digital Point Google Ranking Checker(http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/keywords)Google Toolbar 4 beta (http://www.google.com/tools/toolbar/T4/)PageRank for Safari (http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/pagerank-mac)Prog (Free Google PageRank display search tool)(http://seochat.com/seo-tools/pagerank-search)The Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/)Yahoo! Developer Network: various tools(http://developer.yahoo.net/wiki/index.cgi?ApplicationList)Web SitesMajor search engine search volume breakdown(http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/index.php)My review of Link Spam Detection Based on Mass Estimation(http://www.seobook.com/archives/001342.shtml)My review of the Google internal spam guidelines and search reviewdocument (http://www.seobook.com/archives/000917.shtml)SearchBistro:(http://www.searchbistro.com/guide.pdf)(http://www.searchbistro.com/spamguide.doc)The Major Search EnginesAllTheWeb: powers Lycos and AllTheWeb(http://www.AllTheWeb.com)AltaVista (http://www.AltaVista.com)Ask pay-per-click listings (http://sponsoredlistings.ask.com/)
194Discussion of Yahoo!’s new patent(http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=24500)Google (http://www.google.com)Free Submission (http://www.google.com/addurl.html)Sitemaps (http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/)Webmaster guidelines(http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html)MSN Paid Search (http://advertising.msn.com/searchadv/)MSN Search (http://search.msn.com/)MSN Search blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/msnsearch)MSN Site owner suggestions(http://search.msn.com/docs/siteowner.aspx)MSN spam fighting via mathematics: this posthttp://www.seobythesea.com/?p=160 links to this great videohttp://www.cerias.org/news_and_events/events/security_seminar/details.php?event=212370&date=1102531134;&scope=dayVideo about MSN Search(http://blogs.msdn.com/msnsearch/archive/2005/10/22/483846.aspx)Yahoo! Mindset (http://mindset.research.yahoo.com/)Yahoo! Search (http://www.search.yahoo.com)Free Submission (http://submit.search.yahoo.com/free/request)Paid Submission(http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/srchsb/sse.php)Reinclusion requests(http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/us/ysearch/cgi_rereview)Google Research PapersAnatomy of a Search Engine(http://www-db.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html)Applied Semantics CIRCA(http://lsdis.cs.uga.edu/SemWebCourse_files/WP/Applied-semantics- ontology_usage.pdf)Example of Google getting one of their own sites hijacked(http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/050526-084634)Google’s Matt Cutts talks about the SEO process(http://www.mikegrehan.com/audio/mattcutts/seoclip.mp3)Hilltop (http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~georgem/hilltop/)
195InfoSpace: meta search engine that owns Dogpile, Excite,WebCrawler, MetaCrawler, and a few others(http://www.infospace.com)Jeff Dean video about some of Google’s technology(http://www.uwtv.org/programs/displayevent.asp?rid=2459)Myriad Search (http://www.myriadsearch.com)PageRank (http://dbpubs.stanford.edu:8090/pub/1999-66)Post about Google trusting old sites too much(http://www.threadwatch.org/node/6484)Search Engine relationship chart by Bruce Clay(http://www.bruceclay.com/searchenginerelationshipchart.htm)Topic Sensitive TrustRank(http://www.cse.lehigh.edu/~brian/pubs/2006/WWW/topical-trustrank.pdf)Topic-Sensitive PageRank(http://www.stanford.edu/~taherh/papers/topic-sensitive-pagerank- tkde.pdf)Other Sites101 Public Relations: press release templates and report(http://www.101publicrelations.com/)Coverage of Google’s new patent(http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2115)(http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2132)Froogle (http://www.froogle.com)Froogle information for webmasters(http://www.google.com/froogle/merchants.html)Google’s cache of my home page(http://126.96.36.199/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF- 8&q=cache%3Awww.seobook.com)Latent Semantic Indexing information(http://www.seobook.com/lsi/cover_page.htm)My Directory Checklist (http://www.seobook.com/directorylist.xls)PR Web press releases (http://www.prweb.com)Report spam to Yahoo!(http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/us/ysearch/cgi_reportsearchspam)
196Search Engine Watch: Danny Sullivan’s search engine informationwebsite(http://www.searchenginewatch.com)Thumbshots search engine and ranking comparison tool(http://ranking.thumbshots.com)Usually time spent reporting spam is time wasted, but you canreport spam to Google(http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html)Some Notes" Search for your target keyword on each of the major engines. Do theresults heavily overlap? Which results are the same across many engines?Which ones are different?" Practice searching the link profiles of a couple top-ranked websites. Trythe Google ‘link:www.site.com’ search for a page. Next try Yahoo!’s‘link:http://www.site.com’ search for a page. Notice how much lower theGoogle link count is than Yahoo!’s." Try Yahoo!’s ‘linkdomain:www.site.com’ to see how many links point to asite on the whole. Perform the same query again, but then place’–site:www.domain.com’ at the end of your search query. This will showyou how many external links point at a page." Look at Archive.org to see how old the top five sites in Google ranking foryour primary keyword are. If they are more than a year old, it is going totake a while to catch them in Google unless you have a much betterholistic marketing strategy.
197Link BuildingSearch engines currently base relevancy primarily on linkage patterns. Who links toyou and how they link to you are what determines where your site will rank forcompetitive search queries.Text in Incoming LinksWhat Link Text is Good to Use?If you link to SEOBook.com, a link with the words Search Engine Optimization orSEO Book are more valuable than a link that says other site. Evaluating the text inthe links, along with who links where, is how the major ways search engines getfeedback from external sources.Search engines can look for noun-verb patterns in text, but machines can be taughtto crank out text. There is limited cost to content creation, so search engines mustlook offsite to understand what a document is about.Currently link analysis is the most effective way to determine document quality.How Powerful is Link Text?Many bloggers are politically outspoken and view George Bush in a less-than-favorable light. Hundreds of people have linked to his biography page using thephrase miserable failure as the link text. Searching on the phrase miserable failure inGoogle, at the time of this writing, ranks the biography page of George W. Bush atthe Whitehouse.gov website as the #1 result in Google. It is a good example ofjust how powerful link text can be.Part of why it is so expensive to build a current search engine is that feedback andlinking take time to measure and collect. Everything you collect, changes.How Not to Move a Web SiteIf I did this with a client site, I’d deserve to be shot. I changed my DNS andmoved one of my sites at about the same time. The DNS change quicklypropagated through, but my site took a while to load to the new server.Chapter7
198Google happened to spider my URL when there was no site on the new webserver:In spite of the site not being there, my then-blank site (Search-Marketing.info) stillranked at number six for search engine marketing out of 15 million results.So don’t repeat my error—the proper way to move hosts is to set up the new site,point the DNS at the new location, and then take the old site down after a few daysto a week.Authority VS Link Anchor TextIn the past this section talked up how important anchor text is. While anchor textis still somewhat important, it has been heavily gamed over the past couple years,and thus Google’s relevancy algorithms have de-weighted anchor text while placingmore weight on domain age and link authority.
199A quality link from an authoritative site that does not have your desired anchor textis worth more than a link from an average or low-quality site that has yourkeywords in the anchor text.Even if you get a quality link that points to a different part of your site it will stillraise your overall relevancy and authority for every page on your site.Site & Article Titles as Guides for Anchor TextMany people reference things by their official names. Thus, if you write an articlethat has a keyword somewhere in the title many of the people who link at yourarticle will link with the keyword in the link.If you are writing information with the intent to spread make sure you place beinglinkworthy above being keyword focused though. You can always change yourtitle after people link to your article.Why are Links so Powerful?When we write stuff about ourselves, we have a tendency to lie. It is human natureto boost your own worth. This is why meta tags and page copy are nowhere nearas powerful as they once were. They have been used and abused.Links from other webmasters are viewed by search engines as unbiased, third partyvotes. While Yahoo! tends to put more weight on page copy than Google does,links are the #1 ranking criteria for competitive phrases in all major search engines.Many people who look for links just think “link,” but often, this is not the mosteffective way to do link building. If you think of the web as a huge social networkand think of links as relationships, you have a huge advantage over yourcompetition.You can do many manipulative things to make your ideas appear better than theyare, but if you can find more natural ways to embed yourself in the socialstructure of the web, you will likely become extremely successful.Links from DirectoriesSome directories will only list your real site name. When submitting to the majordirectories, you want to get the best listing you can, but many of those who editdirectories are volunteers. To make their job easy, make sure you do the followingthings:" Submit your site to the right category." Read the directory submission tips." Check to see how other sites in that category are listed. If theyprimarily are listed by site title, make sure you submit your actual sitetitle. If they seem to be a bit liberal (allowing keyword-stuffed listings),This is probably the singlemost important concept inthis whole e-book:Many people who lookfor links just think “link,”but often this is not themost effective way todo link building. If youthink of the web as ahuge social networkand think of links asrelationships, you havea huge advantage overyour competitors.
200you may want to submit with a more liberal and descriptive title (i.e.,try to get your keywords in some of the links)." Use a suitable description. Make sure you mix your link anchor textand descriptions each time you get a link." View the other entries in the category so you can see the style of theother listings." Emulate the style of other listings, but provide your own originalfactual details in the description. Try your best to state what sets youapart or what is your unique selling proposition." Keyword-rich domain names lead to keyword-rich links fromdirectories. If your site does not have a keyword-rich URL, then it iseasy to change the site graphic design to make it look like the site’sofficial name at launch is my keyword store or similar. In addition, youcan place your keywords inside the page title and site logo such that itlooks like your site name is Paypal Payment Solutions instead of justPaypal. That move might be viewed as shady by some, and it is notsomething you would do with an already well-branded business, but ifyou are starting from scratch, try to use what advantages you can.Links from Other ResourcesSome people are rather link--liberal and will list your site as you please. Again, viewhow they have their other links and emulate them.If you are trading links, and a site is requesting a super keyword-rich link, theyshould have no problem with giving you a keyword-rich link.Sometimes writing articles or creating viral tools is a quick way to build links in acheap and time effective manner.How do You Learn Best?Some people learn better by watching video than by reading. Dan Thies recentlyoffered two free videos on link building. I recommend watching both of them,even if you also read the rest of this chapter. The first video is web-based(http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/week2-sample.html), and the second one is an exe file(http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/linkvideo/).Vary Link TextAll the links pointing to your site should not have the same exact link text as thatcould be a sure sign of link spamming. You want to mix it up and use differenttext links from different sites. This will make it appear as natural linking to searchengines.You probably shouldn’t let any more than 20-30% of your links have any specificanchor text if you can control it. There are no set rules, but mixing it up will
201prevent you from flagging spam filters that currently exist or may soon be added tosearch engines.When I get links into my SEO Book site, I frequently use the following anchortext::" SEO Book" Aaron Wall" Aaron Wall’s SEO Book" Search Engine Optimization Book" SEO Book: Search Engine Optimization" sometimes I may use a few other variations such as: SEO Ebook, SEOBlog, Search Engine Marketing Tips, or SEO News" I also occasionally use what some would consider to be bad link text.Sometimes using words like here, click here, <www.domain.com>, and<http://www.domain.com> may help make your link popularity lookmore natural." Requesting links without specifying the desired anchor text also helpsguarantee your link profile will have a bit of variety in it, since peoplewho are not told how to link will use various different anchor textcombinations.You want to use a few semantically similar phrases and many anchor text variationsto make your anchor text look as natural as it can. Some people try to makeanchor text like this (with the following being one big link):SEO, search engine optimization, placement positioning servicesstrategy, top ranked #1 Google, Yahoo!, MSNBut that is not how people normally link. It is usually better to use many short linktext groups than trying to get all of your keyword variations in every link.My Link Profile is Less than IdealMy site has hundreds of thousands of links pointing to it. Given that many links, Ishould be able to own the market, but because I was so focused on brand building,my anchor text profile is not as well mixed as it should be.I never expected my site or my reputation to grow as quickly as they did. Thisleads me to the point that if you think there is a chance your brand and reputationmay grow quickly, you may want to try to get good anchor text variation early on inyour link building. Later on, when lots of people link to you with your brand as theanchor text, your site will have relevant anchor text for many other queries.Using Links to Capture the Tail End of SearchMany people optimize their sites for stuff like purple widgets and forget to optimizefor more specific or related terms. You cannot always optimize your page for all
202the terms you like, but you can add some modifier or descriptive words in some ofthe inbound link text to try to rank well in a slightly broader keyword basket. Someexample link text might be the following:" Buy Purple Widgets" Purple Widget Store" Purple Widget SaleDoing this may mean that it may take longer to rank well for purple widgets, but italso means you will likely rank for many more specific queries around that keywordterm space in a quicker time period. It also makes your link profile look morenatural and makes your site less likely to get filtered out of the search results.Giving away Tools or Knowledge for Linkage DataMany sites build free linkage data by creating industry standard tools. I paid afriend only $400 to create the Hub Finder tool and in its first month of existence, itprobably got at least $1,000 worth of free links. Digital Point has many free linksfrom the tools they give away.If you have great free tools on your site, you may garner many natural, editorial,quality links from them. If you place tools on other sites, make sure you also put afew links on them to drive traffic and link authority at your most important sites.Articles can act just like tools as link magnets. Paul Graham is a great example of awriter who gains a ton of free linkage data by giving away knowledge. His How toStart a Startup article is a classic example of an article that built him significantlinkage data.In a large social network, as long as you think about the scalability of your businessmodel, it is hard to give away too much software or information. The more yougive away, the more you get back.Framing, Controversy & Story TellingFraming is a concept well known in politics. The thesis behind the idea of framingis that if you control the language of a debate, you win. Frank Luntz is brilliant atframing issues for the Republican Party.U.S. politicians have used Support Our Troops as a phrase to gain blind support forthe war in Iraq. At the same time, the same government cut hazardous duty pay,cut veteran’s benefits, and called back reservists using a back door draft.There is a yellow Support Our Troops ribbon from China on many SUVs. Anyonewho dare criticize the ribbons would be called unpatriotic.Back door draft would be an example of an anti-war frame. Extension of honorableservice would be considered a pro-war frame.
203If you create an idea or campaign that is hard to dislike, or one where a mentioncauses controversy, you will likely gain many links. Don’t Think of an Elephant is ashort book about framing from a liberal political perspective.Framing, Search & SEOFor the past few years Google has had the largest search index. They boastedabout how important index size was. Yahoo! announced an index twice the size asGoogle’s. Sergey Brin was quick to discredit Yahoo! stating their index had manyduplicate documents in it. Google then stopped showing their number of indexedpages on their home page and stated that they thought relevancy was moreimportant.Many SEOs say they are ethical, which by default frames their competitors asunethical.Before I wrote this e-book, many people stated, “you don’t want an SEO book—they are all outdated garbage.” I used that frame to sell my e-book as “the onlycurrent SEO book.” I also give away free updates to help readers keep up with themarket and also reinforce that marketing message.If you read conversations in your marketplace, the market will likely grant youmany useful frames to position your business.Getting SuedIf you ever get sued, reflect upon how you can spin the story and market it. Themarketing value of a well-played lawsuit can be immeasurable.I was sued by Traffic Power, and it got my site links from many newspapers,Wired, Slashdot, and the Wall Street Journal. I never really wanted to followthrough with fighting the lawsuit, but my friends talked me into it. After all thoselinks started to pour in, I knew why.The nice things about getting links from high-profile, well-trusted sites are that theyare hard to duplicate, they drive significant direct traffic, and they often lead tomany secondary links.Story TellingSeth Godin’s All Marketers are Liars is a book about how consumers lie tothemselves to justify their actions. Good marketers tell stories to match the biasand world views of their customers.The search phrase SEO Book was not competitive until AFTER I created this site.I do reference ranking #1 for SEO Book as part of the sales process because ithelps tell a story, reinforces my brand, and seems like it would be a competitiveterm. It also helps target my sales letter toward newer webmasters.
204When people are new, they tend to be hungry and are willing to work hard to earna living. One time I formatted this e-book for about four hours so that a personwith poor vision could read it. I was hungry and wanted to help them.Sometimes people who download this e-book have the page freeze up duringdownload, or something goes wrong in the payment processing cycle. Whenproblems occur, I provide customer service as quickly as possible. I never blamethe customer because technology messes up. Blaming them would leave a badimpression.If I provide a quick, courteous response within a couple of minutes, that isremarkable, and means they will be more inclined to think my product is good andsay nice things about me.One time I ordered something from a person who has been an Internet marketingguru for about a decade. The download did not work. His support team told methat I was all screwed up and that I needed to white list their e-mail address. Seemsto me they knew what the problem was (them getting blacklisted for being e-mailspammers), so why blame me?A large part of the bad reputation the Internet marketing field gets is due tomarketers working harder at marketing than at creating a relevant useful product inthe changing marketplace and following through with quality customer support.Customer support is a large part of the story customers will tell other prospectivecustomers.Being RemarkableAnother one of Seth’s books is called Purple Cow. The thesis of the book is thatthings that are remarkable are worthy of being remarked upon. A link is nothingbut a citation or a remark, so if you figure out how to create ideas or products thatare remarkable, people will talk about you and the links will follow.Semi-Official Article NamesMany people link to things using their official names. When you write an article,you can create an article name that is somewhat keyword rich to help pick up linkswith those words in the link text. After time passes and you have a few links, youcan change the title to pick up slightly different terms in the link text, or to createan article title that is more descriptive and compelling.Sometimes I create bizarre names to force people to mix the anchor text. Forexample, when I created my keyword research tool I called it something like“Google and Yahoo!’s Overture Suggestion Keyword Research Tool.” Peoplelinked to it using all sorts of combinations of those keywords, and I rank in the top10 of Google’s results for just about any keyword tool name I can imagine. After Igot a few dozen links with different anchor text combinations, I changed the nameto the “SEO Book keyword research tool.”
205Keep in mind that if you are too overt with how you mix things up, someonemight call you out on the technique.Creating Tools & Content Based on Linking OpportunitiesSometimes when doing link analysis, you come across pages that would beappealing to get links from, but the owner may not be readily willing to link to yourcurrent site. So create something that they would link to.Of all the pages on the web, most of them are not overtly amazingly thoughtful ororiginal. With that being said, it costs next to nothing to write an article or hire anarticle writer to write about a topic that could likely gain links from various trustedor authoritative resources.For most people, it is easier to create something worth promoting than to promotesomething not worth promoting. Along those lines, it is easier to create somethingpeople care about if you use their interests as the source of the content or idea.If the thought or reasoning behind the article does not totally agree with you, thenit might be a good occasion to hire a guest writer.A good example of this idea is Myriad Search, an ad-free meta search engine Icreated. Within a month of launch, the site had over 1,000 links without mebuying a single link. People linked to it because it is easy to link to. In the minds ofsome people, it also changed my brand from being a person who did SEO to aperson who did search. Suddenly I was able to build link reputation that wouldnormally be unreachable to most SEOs.Self Reinforcing Market PositionsOnce a site already ranks at the top of the search results it is more likely to befound and read and linked at. If you are trying to catch up and beat a site that isenjoying many self-reinforcing links, you need to try to create self-reinforcingpositions in smaller markets, go after different keywords or market segments, oradd something remarkable to your site that will make powerful webmasters want tolink at your site.Mike Grehan explains the self reinforcing market position link conundrum in hisFilthy Linking Rich.Tag, You’re ItCurrently, most search algorithms are driven by link reputation. Eventually, searchengines will have enough user feedback data to where they will be able to augmentthe links with how users tag web pages and their usage data.If a site with exceptionally high link popularity scores rarely gets tagged, searchengines may discount the relevancy for that site or flag that site for human review.
206If you are big into web marketing, I recommend creating a user account with eachof the major engines unless you are using shady search marketing techniques.I also would recommend looking at some of the other social software taggingwebsites like del.icio.us. Pages that are heavily tagged today stand a good chance ofbeing pages that are frequently cited on websites tomorrow.If you track what types of information people are tagging, then that may help yousculpt a few good ideas you could launch, which may provide you with free, virallink popularity.Also note that things people tag or mention on their sites" Are typically hard links for competitors to obtain or compete with" May lead to secondary links and media coverage" Are links that will likely provide much more pull than links from fairlystatic directory type sitesTracking how ideas spread can also help you see market opportunities and find thepeople most likely to help you spread your idea.Exchanging LinksOpportunity CostOver the last year, Google has gotten much better at detecting link exchanges andgiving them no weight or negative weight. Typically for most savvy webmasters,the time wasted on a lavish link exchange program would be better spent creatinguseful, original, link-worthy content.Trading links with a couple exceptionally relevant related resources might be agood idea, but don’t waste your time trading dozens or hundreds of links.Does it Work?Not as well as it once did. Many people who created SEO software, orinformation products that sold themselves as experts, found that their Googlerankings tanked hard core because link exchanges are not all they were oncecracked up to be.If you go too far off topic with your link exchanges, at best it is an opportunity costwaste that will have limited upside on your Google rankings. At worst, it can wasteyour time and put you in spammy web communities that actually cause your site torank far worse than it would if you stayed away from the spammy link networks.The Limits of Reciprocal Linking
207As your time becomes more valuable and you learn more, sometimes it is cheaperto create tools or ideas that will build authoritative links instead of manually goingafter low-quality link exchanges.There are a variety of link exchange networks. A few of the more popular ones areLink Market, Links4Trade, LinksManager, and Link Metro. Some of thesenetworks may help you save time, but do not look for them to be the be-all andend-all solution to your marketing needs. Most of the sites listed in link exchangehubs are garbage. I would not join one of the automated link exchange networkswith any site I was serious about running long term.Link networks still suffer from the problem mentioned on June 26, 2000 whenBrett Tabke closed the Buddy Links program:You must ask yourself why sites would join BL in the first place?Because they couldn’t get listed in the search engines. That leftus at times ‘bottom’ feeding.Do not limit yourself to being stuck in networks.I tend to view the web as a whole as my link pool because if you are willing to workhard enough and create the right content, you can get almost anyone to link to you.We Build Pages made a query combination tool that can also be used to find linksources by tracking various searches on different search engines.The problem with relying on reciprocal links is that is has been abused. Someunscrupulous people have e-mailed competitors’ link partners asking them toremove links. In order to do this, they spoofed the “e-mail from” address to makeit look like their competitor sent the e-mail. If you trade links, you should do sowith trusted sources and ensure they trust you as well.Keep in mind that since reciprocal links tend to be in virtually hidden sections ofsites chuck full of links that most of them do not carry much weight. Also, if youlink to off-topic resources, quality sites might be less likely to link to your site.Greg Boser recently pointed out how ineffective most reciprocal link exchangenetworks are on his blog: http://www.webguerrilla.com/linking/the-truth-about-reciprocal-link-networks/.Jim Boykin mentioned that the fact that link exchange sections are typically tuckedaway in a corner that is not heavily referenced from external sources. This alsomeans that smart search algorithms are not going to place much trust on them,especially if the pages follow the footprints of a typical link exchange page.Requesting LinksNot every link you request requires giving a link back. Sometimes it is cheaper andmore efficient to just to go target higher quality links. Sometimes you can just
208request a link and get it by being personal and empathetic. Other times links mayrequire payment.Be PersonalThe best way to go about acquiring links is to be as personal about it as you can.Look around their website and try to find personal information. The more youfind, the better you are.When e-mailing them, try to submit it to the person who runs the site, not ageneral info submission. If you can state where your link should go on their siteand how it would improve their user experience, you stand a good chance ofgetting a link.Off-topic, somewhat personal statements showing you share similar interests maymake you seem more human and more connected with them and will make iteasier to get links. For instance, if you found out that I like peanut butter,somehow mentioning that or joking about it in the e-mail will make me far morelikely to link to your site.Proper Link Request Buy LineAnother good idea is to make the buy line of the e-mail appear as a suggestion. If Isee the subject line of the e-mail as “SEO Book website suggestion,” odds are thatI am going to open it. Feedback is a fundamental part of any successfulbusiness so I have to open it.I like using the word suggestion versus feedback. If you use feedback, they may feel likeyou are tricking them. If you use the word suggestion, they are highly inclined toopen the e-mail. Remember, getting someone to open the e-mail is half of thebattle.E-mail to UseWhen building links, you are more likely to have a higher close rate if you use an e-mail address with the same domain name with the site for which you are buildinglinks. Hotmail and Yahoo! mail type accounts probably do not close as well.Some people also send their link requests as though they are cute females.Scouting Out Potential Link SourcesA good way to find candidates for links is to use the Yahoo! link search. Do asearch on Google to find your top few competitors. Go down the list and performa backward link check on Yahoo! for each of them. See the sites that link to themand see if you can get links from those same sites.Also, look at the categories those sites are in and use the Google directory to getthe best sites from those categories to link to you. (Once again, to do a backwardsWhen asking people tolink to your site, the mostimportant factors are to bepersonal about the linkrequest and appeal to theirmotivators.
209link check of a competitor’s website, go to Yahoo!’s search box and type“link:http://www.evilcompetitor.com.”)The Cost of LinksSome people are afraid of certain links because they think those links cost toomuch money. An expensive link can also be a good deal though.If a link is expensive, or if the cost of obtaining it is a significant amount of effort,money, a long wait, or the approval from a webmaster who is a stickler for quality,it means those links are not going to be easy to get. People who create $5 siteshoping to double their money will not usually be acquiring links that take hundredsof dollars or many hours to get.As people continue to abuse lower quality links the high-quality links will onlycount more.Finding Niche Link SourcesYou can do a search for “<your keyword> + directory,” “<your keyword> + addURL,” “<your keyword> + submit site”…any of them. Start thinking of ideas likethat and finding sources of inbound links should be no problem. You can searchacross multiple search engines and even search for various file extensions." If you have a resource about the ASP language, it may be a good ideato search for ASP file types." If you have a golf site with a Flash game on it, try to get golf links, butalso see if there are some game sites or Flash sites that might be willingto link to your site." If you have a beautiful site design or an XHTML and CSS compliantdesign, try to list your site on sites about beautiful web design." If you are a site designer, consider creating free open source sitedesigns and promoting them on OSWD.org.Affiliate Program LinksMost affiliate programs redirect your links through third-party websites thatprevent the link from parsing link popularity.In addition, many other websites use query strings on the links. These typically willnot parse PageRank to the destination page. A query string is something like“?affil=34565” at the end of the link. This identifies the affiliate for trackingpurposes.Even if affiliate programs do not provide static text links, they still help raise yourbrand awareness and build trust in the eyes of your prospective customers. A well-run affiliate program can also mean that some of your affiliates are crowding someof your competitors out of the search results.
210Problems With SEO-Friendly Affiliate Programs (How TheyCan Hurt Affiliates, But Help Merchants)If you build enough link popularity pointing to an affiliate page, it can outrank theregular version of the document. But if many good affiliates are promoting aproduct and those pages link back to the home page of the site they are promoting,then you can end up pushing a ton of PageRank to the home page of the merchantsite. That PageRank can filter down to the regular (or non-affiliate) version of thepage, which may eventually outrank all the affiliates. More information is availableon the Over The Mark blog.You Do Not Need To Reciprocate Every LinkIf you have a great resource, you do not need to give a link back every time you askfor a link. If you write compelling content, people may want to link to it free, andthat is the best way to get links.I often group my sites with a couple other similar resources when I ask for freelinks. This gives me a better chance of getting my site listed, because it seems like Iam trying to help them improve their site versus just helping myself. In addition,this helps clustering search engines such as Teoma know what sites are similar tomine.You cannot be afraid to ask or get rejected. Most link requests are rejected orignored, but if you show that you put a good amount of time and effort in and thatyou are actually a human who visited their site, then you stand a much betterchance of getting a link.Cheesy Link Exchange TrickSome people also 301 redirect their new site to an established site to have it showthe PageRank of the other site. Since the PageRank only updates every threemonths, they can make many link trades based on fooling webmasters with thetoolbar PageRank from the other site.Automated Link Exchange EmailsAutomation is an extremely bad thing during the human interaction portion oflink exchange. There is a program by the name of Arelis that will automate nearly100% of the link exchange process, and it may be useful to use for most portionsEXCEPT the human interaction.You stand a far better chance to get links if you are extremely personal in yourlink requests. There are a few linking tools I occasionally use, but keep in mindthat anything that sends automated queries to search engines is usually going to beagainst their terms of service.Evolving Link Analysis
211As Google has moved away from PageRank and anchor text and relevancyalgorithms have moved toward things like TrustRank, site age, and link authority,most of the link analysis tools on the market provide little ROI for the effort andprice required to use them. They can’t measure what the relevancy algorithms arelooking at – how do you measure TrustRank when the numbers are not public?You may want to use SEO for Firefox to get an overview of the competitivelandscape, Hub Finder to find topical hub pages, and Yahoo! Site Explorer to digup some of your competitor’s top backlinks, but I wouldn’t recommend buyingany link analysis tools at this point. The time and effort spent analyzing outdatedstats would be better spent building links.SEO for FirefoxThe best way to know what your competition level is to look at the quality of thetop few sites and their link profiles. Are their sites .edu sites, old well branded sites,or other highly useful sites? Do they have many editorial links pointing at theirsite?Google primarily relies upon site age and link reputation to determine relevancy forcompetitive terms. Links from government or educational sites are more likely tobe well-trusted in search results since, typically, it is harder to influence them thanthe average .com website.SEO for Firefox allows you to view many data points from directly within thesearch results to see how competitive a marketplace is. It will help you answerquestions like" How old are these sites?" Do they have quality inbound links?" Are they listed in the major web directories?" Are bloggers mentioning their site?" Are people saving their site on social bookmarking sites?Hub FinderHub Finder is a free, web-based link analysis tool I created. The sole goal of HubFinder is to help webmasters find co-occurring links. Hub pages that link tomultiple competing sites are also likely to link to your site.
212This means you can enter in the URL of two to ten competing websites andwherever their inbound links overlap, it will return in the search results. On-topiclinks may carry more weight than off-topic links in some search algorithms. Hereis a quick visual run through of how it works.You can enter in a relevant topic to grab the top results from the search engine.You can choose to grab the results from Yahoo!, Google, or both.The tool then queries Yahoo! to look for what pages are linking to each site. Bydefault, the tool searches through the top 50 inbound links for each domain. Youcan adjust this value from 50 to 250.The sites that rank at the top of the search results for competitive phrases in yourfield are called authority sites. For the term SEO, the following eleven sites areauthority sites.After the tool grabs the links pointing at each of the domains, it compares wherethey overlap and returns pages that link to two or more related websites. Thepages that link to two or more authority pages are called hub pages.
213The numbers at the top of the results coincide with the numbers next to each sitelisted above. I clicked on #4 (SeoBook.com). You can see that TopRank andSearch Engine Watch both linked to my website.Sometimes this tool will return a few useless or spammy results if you are notsearching for a well-established topic, but most of the time it will show some of thebest sites you should try to get links from.After the results show, you can click the Download CSV button if you want tosave the results to view them later in a spreadsheet.Yahoo! Site ExplorerIf using the “linkdomain:” and “link:” features confuses you, then you may want totry Yahoo!’s free link analysis tool. Yahoo! will not give you the in-depthinformation that Backlink Analyzer will, but it makes it easy to surf through a siteand see what pages have inbound links and what links point at each page.Backlink AnalyzerI created Backlink Analyzer to give people a free option to do link analysis. Someof my friends have already compared it to the two paid tools listed below anddescribed it as being on par or better.Read more about my newly launched backlink analyzer at:http://www.seobook.com/archives/001108.shtml. Backlink Analyzer is currently aWindows-only application. My programmers are making an extensible cross-platform version.OptiLinkOptiLink ($224) is link analysis software that can scour up to 1000 differentbacklinks of a website and return the results in the order of PageRank. You thenhave the ability to go through and request links from the most important sites.OptiLink also lets you know what words are in the different links so you can get anaccurate picture of total link reputation and not just link popularity. Linkreputation is the combination of link popularity and link text. OptiLink will let youcheck the backlinks through multiple search engines.
214SEO EliteSEO Elite ($167) is newer software that is extremely similar to OptiLink. Itsurveys backlinks to find what anchor text is used and linking page PageRank. Inaddition, SEO Elite will spider the links on your site or page and check thatreciprocal link partners are linking back to your site.TattlerGreg Boser created a free, lighting-quick link analysis application similar to thethree listed above. Tattler is available free. It only works with Yahoo!, but isexceptionally fast.Web-Based Link AnalysisIf you do not want to download any link analysis software but still want to analyzeanchor text profiles there are a couple free web based link analysis tools.Similar to SEO for Firefox, the WeBuildPages Top 10 Analysis Tool compares aURL to the stats of the top 10 ranked pages in Google.BacklinkWatch.com provides link anchor text and PageRank values.Link HarvesterLink Harvester is a free, web-based link analysis tool I created. Link Harvester willtell you if a site has any governmental or educational inbound links as well as tellingyou the number of unique linking domains and unique linking IP addresses.Link Harvester also auto-checks boxes next to each site that links in more thanfour times so that you can re-query the tool to filter out the sites that link in manytimes to search deeper through the backlink database quickly and easily. That issomething that none of the paid link analysis tools do.In addition to displaying a link from each of the sites linking in, you can easilyexport the data to a spreadsheet. It is free, open source, and uses the Yahoo! API,so you do not have to worry about the tool getting blocked.GoLexaSome people have described GoLexa as a Swiss Army knife tool for SEO. It doesnot give the detailed link analysis data that some of the above tools do, but it doeshave many useful and interesting features.Microsoft Forward LinksMany search engines allow you to search for what pages link to your site, butMicrosoft was the first engine to show you what pages a specific domain links at.linkfromdomain:site.com is the syntax for Microsoft’s forward link command.
215You can use the forward links function in a number of ways:" To quickly check the quality and types of sites that a site links to" To get a rough indication of what percent of a site’s links are reciprocalor nepotistic in nature (linkfomdomain:site.com linkdomain:site.com)." To create an index of seed sites for creating a topic-specific searchengine using the Google Custom Search Engine technology.Bonus Linking TipOne of the best ways to use these linking tools is to use them to track the linkspointing to a website that has moved. Alert webmasters to broken links on theirsites and let them know that you have a similar site. Many webmasters will likelylink to your site, especially if you list multiple, similar, useful sites and they do notthink your motives are 100% selfish.Being SmoothSometimes it helps to be a bit smooth. Sometimes I suggest a few resources otherthan my own. Sometimes I just put my URL under my name as if its part of mysignature. Other times I just ask for feedback on an idea. All techniques haveworked to get me many quality inbound links in a short period of time.A non-link-request link request may actually have a higher conversion rate than anactive link request with some webmasters. You have to read the motives of thewebmaster.The use of the above listed tools allows me to automate most of the link researchprocess while still allowing me to remaining personal in the link request e-mails Isend out.Example E-mail (sent to a personal e-mail if they have one available)Hello <actual person>,I have been browsing around photography sitesfor a couple hours now and just ran acrossyours…it’s awesome. [stroke their ego]Wow! Your picture of that dove—blah blahblah…bird photography is one of my blah blahblah. [be specific and show you visited their site]I took this pic of a flying mongoose here:[look we are the same]<optional>I have already added a link to yoursite on my cool sites page.</optional> [Paythem if you feel you need to—link or cash or whateverother offer. If you feel a phone call is necessary, thenyou may want to give them your number or call themup versus sending an e-mail.]
216[you or] Your site visitors may well beinterested in blah blah blah at my site blahblah. [show them how linking to you benefits them]If you like my site, please consider linkingto it however you like… [Let them know they havechoices—don’t come across as ordering them to dosomething. Also, sometimes just asking for feedbackon an idea gives you all the potential upside of a linkrequest without any of the potential downside. If theyreview your stuff and like it, they will probably link toit. And by asking for their feedback instead of a link,you show you value their opinion not just their linkpopularity.]or with this code. [make it easy for them]I think my site matches well with the theme onthis page:Either way, thanks for reading this and keepposting the awesome photos. [reminder egostroke]Thanks,meme at myemail.comhttp://www.mywhateversite.commy numberEvaluating the Quality of a LinkDo They Have Quality Inbound Links?You can tell a lot about a website by the other sites that link to it. Typically, goodsites are registered in some of the top directories like DMOZ or the Yahoo!Directory and have links from other good sites in their same industry.You can do a “linkdomain:” search on Yahoo! to view some of their bestbacklinks.If they have been exchanging links with Viagra, casino, or other high-margin, off-topic, cheesy websites, then they are probably not a legitimate resource and are nota link source worth pursuing.Does Their Site Offer Quality Content?If search engines did not exist would you still want the link? Would it potentiallysend traffic? Do you enjoy their site? If the answer to these sort of questions is“yes,” then pursue. If the answer is “no” after “no” after “no,” then it is not alogical link opportunity.
217Avoid the Sure DownfallsOff the start, you may be a little more desperate for links as you are learning SEO.A good tip is to stay away from drug, gambling, and porn sites, as they obviouslydestroy your credibility. Other sites that link to those types of networks may alsohurt your site as well (since they may eventually be penalized).Always use your own judgment as you will be the one footing the bill if the idea iswrong.Using Common SenseThat hemp/SEO store I mentioned earlier (one guy tried selling both from thesame website) is a good example of not using common sense. If the site you arelinking to has nothing to do with the topic of your site and no relation to what mayinterest your viewers, you probably do not want to link to them.Carpet bomb linking strategies may be successful in the short term, but over timethey will grow less and less useful to the point of ineffectiveness.There is also an indirect linking effect to linking. If you link to really weird sites,then it lowers the odds that other industry resources will take you credibly or wantto link to your site.Example of a Junk Link RequestIf you send junk link exchange requests, they will usually be deleted as spam. Onthe same token, if you receive a message like the following one, you should delete itas spam. Most link exchange requests should go right into the junk bin.Hello Sir/Ma’am,I was at your site today. Great site! I waswondering if you would want to exchange links. Ialready have a link to you located athttp://www.spamsite.com/links/reciprical-links-exchange2/other-sites37.htm.As you well know, search engines look at links andgive sites credit for their incoming links. Bylinking together wemake both of our sites stronger.Please link to me with the following information:<a href="http://www.spamsite.com">Buy Viagra CheapPhentermine No Prescription Paxil Prozac Online</a>Some of them even take it one step further and give you emails with subject lineslike “your link – final warning,” as though they offered any real value.Eventually, Aggressive Promotion Techniques GetDiscounted or Penalized
218Even if a shady site has decent link popularity, you can usually bet that they will belosing it soon if they are associated with and exchange links with all kinds ofrandom sites. Link exchange may work up until a point, and then eventually itbecomes link farm. A link farm is a site with a bunch of completely unrelated linksscattered about in no logical order.Eventually, overly aggressive sites get penalized, but webmasters using thosetechniques will usually have already started another site, and you may end upsuffering for their greed if you exchange links with incredibly aggressive sites.Another trick they may use is to have you link into their good site and link to youfrom a different domain of essentially no value. Since their good site is not goingto get penalized (because it does not link out to any shady sites), it does not mattermuch to them if their bad site and your site receive a spam penalty for being part ofa link farm.Free Links & Buying LinksThe Best Things in Life Are FreeMike Grehan interviewed Google’s Matt Cutts(http://www.mikegrehan.com/audio/mattcutts/prclip.mp3) about PageRank andlink quality. Matt stressed that Google wants to count editorial citations, and thatthe best links are usually free.Garbage LinksWhile many low-quality links may still help, over time their value goes down.Guestbooks and the like are essentially worthless. Many of the holes in blogsoftware that permitted heavy spamming are also being taken care of.Some people have stated that Google is even filtering out links from pages with thethe words link or links in the filename or file path.In a sketchy field, you may have to use many sketchy techniques to be able toprofitably compete. You don’t want to be the only site in your industry using reallysketchy techniques unless you can afford for the site to get banned or have a badeffect on your brand. If the top site in your field has 300 links, it probably is a badidea to build or buy 87,000 links. Consider the risk to reward ratio and stay belowthe radar. You want to blend in.Some large, well-branded corporate sites like Expedia that spend millions onGoogle AdWords will likely be able to get away with doing more shady stuff than anew webmaster would. Companies that already have a brand built up have muchmore leeway than new webmasters. When BMW was removed from Google forspamming, Google re-indexed the BMW site about one day later.Have a Good Idea
219There are many legitimate, long-term, free link opportunities available, though theymay take a good bit of work to find.The web is a big social network where good ideas will want to spread naturally. Itis far easier to spread an idea worth spreading than it is to push a bad idea. A linkis a vote for a site. It is a citation. It is a remark, saying “Oh hey, I found this overhere.” By being remarkable or different, it far easier to build a linking campaignwithout a large sum of money or effort.If you act like yourself, are willing to be human, and feed into your character flaws,sometimes those are more citation-worthy than what you think you are good at.Plus, if you are being yourself, you are less likely to get burned out and it will beharder for competitors to replicate what you do.Give Something AwayOne of the best ways to build link popularity is to make something useful andvaluable and give it away. PHP Bulletin Board is a free bulletin board that has aPageRank of 9 or 10. OpenOffice is another great open source software project.Some popular things to give away are software, games, designs, and valuableinformation.Submitting ArticlesThere are tons of places on the web where you can submit articles. In addition tosubmitting them, if you provide an extremely compelling article with reprint rights,you will find that it may just end up all over the web. I started writing articles whenGoogle changed its algorithm in Nov 2003. Within a month or two I had articlesappear on:" SearchGuild (http://www.searchguild.com/);" SEO News Journal (http://www.seojournal.com);" Sticky Sauce (http://www.stickysauce.com/);" LilEngine (http://www.lilengine.com/);" Internet Search Engine Database (http://www.isedb.com/);" and many, many other search-specific websites.When you write articles to submit to other sites, you may want to give them adifferent version than the one you post to your site, so that you do not deal withduplicate content issues.Additionally, you can drive more targeted traffic to your site by reminding readersthat they can get the extended version of the article on your site.Becoming an Authority
220In addition to the above links, I have received links from sites I have never evenheard of, and I got linked to by the #1 search resource (SearchEngineWatch.com).A link from Search Engine Watch is not something I could have bought with pilesof cash, and it validates me as a search engine resource in the eyes of many SEOs(as well as in the eyes of some search engines). Danny Sullivan (the editor ofSearch Engine Watch) is a well-trusted search engine information source.Becoming the ResourceDanny Sullivan is known as the world’s greatest search engine resource. I could tryto become the same thing, but I would likely fail time and time again. That spot inthe web is already occupied.I can however become one of the better blog authors about SEO. I also can haveone of the better e-books on the subject. It is worth focusing on an idea until youcan find one that has not already been taken, or something you will enjoycompeting at.It usually is much cheaper to position yourself in a new field or a niche field than abroad field that already has a dominant player in it.What Information Sells?The best selling information is original content, such as tips and articles (“How to”and creative articles work really well), news stories, resource directories, and top 10lists.Where do I Submit My Articles?You may find that people link to you just because they like your site. Being asuccess on the Internet is much easier if people want to syndicate you for free. Offthe start, it will require some active effort to spread your name. A couple goodplaces to submit articles are the following:" Ezine Articles (http://ezinearticles.com/)" SearchWarp (http://searchwarp.com/)" Buzzle (http://www.buzzle.com)" IdeaMarketers (http://www.ideamarketers.com/)" eBooks N’ Bytes (http://www.ebooksnbytes.com/)" Article Central (http://thewhir.com/find/articlecentral/)If you can find industry-related hub sites with a wide following, those are going tobe far better link communities than the general article submission sites I just listed.Additional Bonus Article Submission Ideas
221Understanding where and how to find information will help you becomesuccessful on the web. After you find a few authors from the above sites, youshould search for their names to see where else they are published. You may alsowant to look through search engines and major directories and search for sitescovering your topic that accept articles.You should know who the experts in your field of study are. I also wrote a good,brief article with other article submission locations on my blog(http://www.seobook.com/archives/000099.shtml).Another trick is to search for the names of sites that are using automated spamsoftware to submit articles. If people accept their automated request, then it islikely that they will want to list your quality article if you use a personalized inquiry.Two sites that sent me automated spam articles to me are Marketing Blaster andSearch Engine Geek. Please note that if a site accepts automated spamsubmissions it may be part of a bad community, so you have to use a bit ofdiligence when researching those types of sites.Additional Submission PackagesSome sites, like WeSubmitArticles.com, will write articles for you and submit themto general articles banks for next to nothing. By the time a packaged value systemreaches a price near zero, there usually isn’t a whole lot of value left, but if youhave a site with an exceptionally natural link profile it might not hurt to submit anarticle to the top 10 or 20 article directories.If you can find a way to get published at serious topical authority sites, thosearticles are likely going to be worth about a thousand times as much as submittingarticles to general article banks.Writing Testimonials for LinksI cannot tell you how effective this technique is! A good testimonial almostrequires they post a link to your site. There are two main things to considerregarding writing testimonials: choosing who to write a testimonial for, anddeciding how to write that testimonial.Who to Write a Testimonial ForThe web has a bunch of garbage on it. The web also has a bunch of good peopleon it. It is just as easy to say good things about people who do a really good job asit is about people who do a shoddy job.If you tell people how a bad thing is good, then those people will think you suck(this is extremely common in hype-driven affiliate marketing). Only promote stuffthat you would be glad to throw your name and reputation on.Often testimonials are reciprocal promotion techniques. On the web, many linksare business relations. The easiest place to get help is from the people you are
222helping; after all, it only makes sense to promote and say good things about thepeople with whom you do business.Not every testimonial is a strong business relationship, but you should writetestimonials only for people you would like to promote. Directly or indirectly, thatis what you are doing.How to Write a TestimonialWords like good are actually rather bad. Whenever possible, you want to useconcrete phrases and terms that make the service sound exceptional. A testimonialI once wrote was, “There are few places on the web where you can place an ad andhave it pay for itself in the first day. Search Engine Guide is one of those places.”The first two days of me running an ad on that site, I sold over $600 worth of e-books from his ad.Many of the people on the web who are considered “marketing experts” are sellingget-rich-quick scams. Most Internet marketers selling Internet marketing productsonly make money off selling the idea to someone else who will probably losemoney on the deal.These people usually have crafted the art of writing testimonials because theirlivelihood is completely dependent upon selling the products to members of theirnewsletters. If you glance through that 33 Days to Online Profits, I would notrecommend buying most of the stuff they are selling, but you can learn a bunchfrom reading how Yanik Silver recommends other products.Building Links to Pages that Link to YouIf I tried to add my site to the SEO page at Wikipedia, it would just get removedand labeled as an attempt to spam. Yet, I still can benefit from the existence of theWikipedia by adding links to pages that link to me, as long as those links are usefulto the Wikipedia.You also can add links fairly easily to the Wikipedia talk pages or your personalprofile page.I think the Wikipedia is amazing and do not encourage spamming it, but if youhave something that should be linked to from there, then make sure it is. Ifsomeone else linked to you and that page is relevant to Wikipedia, make sure theWikipedia links to that page. For example, Alexa linked to my site when I postedabout Accoona spamming SEO forums. I referenced that Alexa page in theWikipedia because that page was relevant to coverage of Accoona.Again, I want to stress that I think the Wikipedia is an amazing site and that I donot encourage spamming it, but the same indirect link building idea can work withother sites in similar ways as well.Building Links to the Most Relevant Page
223When you ask for links, it makes sense to point links at the most relevant page.Pointing links at the most relevant page means the following things:" People will be more likely to link to the targeted related page." People will be more likely to click relevant links." People who click the links will be more likely to convert." Search engines will rank the right page for relevant queries." Algorithms that are good at determining relevancy will boost relevantlinks more.In the same vein, if you have a large site and want to build a natural looking linkprofile, you need to create useful and well-marketed content in deep verticals.Don’t just point all the links at your home page.“But My Site is a Boring Retail Site Nobody Will Link To...”If you view yourself as a commodity, so will other people. No matter what fieldyou are in, there are some causes and people who care deeply about what you do ora field that relates to you.Become a subject matter expert on an important issue and leverage that authorityto make your site more powerful than competing sites. If many legitimate sites linkto one authoritative document on your site, much of that trust flows through to therest of your site.Other Free Linking Resources" LinkingMatters.com" Linking101.com" EricWard.comOutsourcing Linking ProgramsFrequently, many people find link building frustrating. You may want to outsourcesome of your link building to a link building firm.If you do outsource portions of the work, make sure you still do some link buildingyourself. Link building is so important that it is not something I would feel entirelycomfortable entirely outsourcing. Link building is associated with brand building.If you care about your brand and understanding how you should integrate your siteinto the web you need to be involved in the link building process.Renting/Buying LinksNote: This is an advanced SEO technique most webmasters do not need to do. I would learn andpractice SEO for at least a few months before I jumped right into any type of link rentaladvertisements.
224Make Sure Your Site Works Well FirstMany people aggressively advertise on other sites without fixing internalconversion problems. If you can double your conversion rate without muchadditional expense, it does not make sense to concentrate on more exposure first.With that said, you can boost your link popularity by renting a few strong inboundlinks. I usually prefer to rent links from related sites as they may also send directtraffic as well as provide a direct boost to link popularity.Register with Directories FirstMany sites rush off to rent links before they have built other links and before itwould be profitable to do so.By getting a few links from related resources and registering your sites at qualitydirectories, it makes your link popularity look like a natural part of the web. If youonly have one or two sources of links, the linkage pattern may seem unnatural tosearch engine algorithms.Renting links is extremely expensive if you do it incorrectly. Registering your siteswith the Yahoo! Directory, Business.com, and a half dozen or so second tierdirectories costs under $1,000. And many of those links will last years withoutrecurring costs!When links develop naturally, it is likely that a site has many low-power linkspointing into it as compared to number of high-power links. You usually want tobuild a broad base of trusted low-power inbound links in conjunction with buildingany exceptionally powerful inbound links.If you are reliant on just a few powerful links, if something happens to those links,you could be in the hurt locker. If you have a many low-power inbound links, thenyour rankings will be more stable if you lose a few links or when large algorithmshifts occur.Look NaturalWhen renting links, ensure that the rental looks natural. Mix your anchor text anddo not rent links based exclusively on PageRank.Renting BannersI prefer to rent static text links versus renting image links. Sometimes certain sitessell banner space cheap. If you do use an image banner, use descriptive ALT texton it so search engines will have an idea what the link is about.Ideal LinksIf it is a useful, on-topic site, I first look to see if I can get any free themed linksfrom that site. Look around and see if there is an area where they link to sites
225similar to yours, and think about what you can do to get them to reference yoursite. Many sites accept articles or have tools and resources sections.Jim Boykin offers the following image and advice on looking for linking locations:You’re the bottom circle (the target). The circles in themiddle represent the site you’re seeking advertising on. Thecircles on the top are the sites that link to the site you’reseeking advertising from.The page on the far right has no outside link linking to it. It’sonly “votes” are what the internal sites passes. (lowerreputation and trust).The first subpage you’ll see has lots of votes to it (links). TheGlossary page I found had 740 backlinks including 44.edu’s….Having an ad on a page like that (in the middle ofthe glossary, for relevant products services, yada yada,) wouldmean that the 44 colleges are directly linking to a sub page -they are directly voting for that page…the trust andreputation are through the roof….getting an ad on a page likethat gives the trust and reputation a straight line to yourtarget.If you want a link to pass authority to boost your search engine rankings, get linksfrom within the content area of pages that are voted for by many legitimateresources. It is also best if these pages are virgin in nature, meaning" No other SEOs are renting links from the page yet." Many of the inbound links are from legitimate governmental,educational, or news organizations who do not typically consider SEOwhen linking." The webmaster has not yet heard of what SEO is and thinks they arejust selling you ad space.
226How do you find the most authoritative pages on a site? If you do a site: search onYahoo!, typically the results are returned in order of importance. Look at the topfew pages from the site to see if they look like they would be important pages andwhy they would be important. Then check their link authority either using theYahoo! Site Explorer, the Yahoo! ‘link:’ function, or another backlink analysis toollike SEO for Firefox.Single Links versus Run-of-Site LinksIf you discovered a virgin area of the web and want to keep your link buy under theradar, it is probably best to find the single most important page from which to get alink, instead of placing a site-wide link.If you buy links, you need to consider the direct advertising effect and the indirectsearch relevancy effect. Some sites will rent you a single link for $75 or let youhave a link on every page of their site for $100. Frequently, the prices for singlelinks and site-wide links are exceptionally close to one another. Most of the linkrenting I have done has been done more for direct traffic, and thus I usually didsite-wide sponsorship from relevant sites.If rented links make up a large portion of your link authority then you might bebetter off trying to stay below radar, renting a few links here or there, rather thanrenting sitewide links.If you are renting links from off-topic sites, it would be advisable to not get run-of-site links as that could stick out as abnormal link pattern. Google and other searchengines may penalize the sites renting links.In some cases where sites are obviously selling links, search engines may strip theability of that site to pass link authority to other sites. If a site is selling links tooaggressively, some search engines place limited or no trust on their outbound linkswhile still ranking that site normally.Many of the major search engines do not give a site much additional relevancy forsite-wide links over a single link.Caution: In February of 2005, Google did an update where many sites that had alarge percentage of their links come from site-wide links with similar anchor text nolonger ranked well due to having unnatural link profiles. Make sure to obtain manyindividual editorial links to offset any paid links.Pre-Sell Pages (or Content Hosting)When buying site-wide ads, I usually recommend buying pre-sell pages instead ofplacing site-wide links. A pre-sell page is a term I coined for a powerfully rentedpage. Essentially, instead of renting a link, you rent a full page ad. If you arepaying for ad space, you should try to get the best value you can. We Build Pageswas the first SEO firm to market pre-sell pages.
227Within a site, link popularity flows naturally. If you link cross-site, it may not flowas naturally. If a site links to another site from every page, many search enginesmay only take the most powerful link into account within their relevancy algorithm.You can ask the advertising site to point site-wide links to a hosted advertising pageon their website. On that page, send multiple deep links into various points ofyour site using descriptive link text. You may also want to place links in the middleof paragraphs and use semantically similar page titles, headers, and subheaders onyour pre-sell pages.Some people also link off to a few related resource pages on their pre-sell pages tobetter help clustering search engines understand what their site is about.If a site has a strong authority score, their pre-sell page may also rank in the searchresults. This helps give you the potential of getting two highly ranked sites fromone link purchase.If your pre-sell pages are done well they may look more like natural content than anadvertisement.Importance of Number of Links on the PageAny page only has a certain amount of link popularity (Google calls this PageRankand Yahoo! calls this Web Rank) that it can redistribute to other pages. Eachadditional link on a page takes away from how much voting power the other linkson that same page get.A page does not lose link popularity for linking out to other sites, it just splits whatlink popularity it can give amongst all pages it is linking to. The link popularity of apage is split up amongst the page’s internal and external links.When evaluating a potential link buy, it is important to consider how many linksare on the page. If you see north of 80 links on a page, then you need to considerthat you will only be getting a small amount of link popularity from that page. Alsoconsider how well the links are integrated into the page content and how well theyrelate to the content of the page.Ease into Link RentingRenting links should be a controlled process. By doing it in a somewhat controlledmanner, you have a better idea what links are working and how many you need.Location of Links on the PageA friend of mine is a database programmer/SEO who has friends who work forGoogle. He stated that Google is trying to change their link algorithm to wherethey can provide both positive and negative linkage credit for link location on thepage and site link patterns (most likely discounting footer banners full of links andother common link rental locations).
228Ideas like these are what make building lots of natural link popularity important.Many Internet marketing experts are shifting portions of their business models tocreating content they control so that people can get contextually relevant ads withinthe main content area of the pages.The link renting business will evolve as the algorithms do, but quality link rentingwill increase in price as the cost of selling links gets more expensive.Link BrokersThere are many link brokers on the market that jack up the prices considerably asmiddle men. You may want to look around to find one of the main link brokers orwebsites selling links directly.Many sites pose as link brokers by marking up the prices of other link brokers’inventory. When you buy links from a link broker, you want to go to the sourceand not pay middle men. If you want to use a link broker directly, I usuallyrecommend Text-Link-Ads.com.I also believe that it is best to build links from places that others are not looking.Many people competing with you probably are already buying links from linkbrokers and some of the high profile link buying will get discounted.If Something Seems Like too Good of a Deal...Google has blocked some websites from being able to pass their PageRank (or linkpopularity) to other websites.The PageRank parsing penalties prevent a page from transferring PageRank, eventhough the site itself may show PageRank. These penalties have typically beenapplied to sites with a high PageRank, and especially to those that are linking tohigh-margin sites that are extremely off topic.If a site has a high PageRank and pharmacy or casino ads, then there stands a goodchance that it will not parse link popularity.Shop AroundYou may want to look at a few links to view prices for various linkingopportunities. Prices fluctuate in the link market from person to person and site tosite. I believe link prices are more volatile than the commodities or futures market.It is worth taking the time to shop around.If you dig up link opportunities that others have yet to explore, they have a muchgreater chance of improving your search engine rankings while also being moreaffordable.Getting Links from Various Sites
229Any given site can only pass a finite amount of link popularity. To improve theeffectiveness of renting links, it is recommended that you get links from multipledifferent websites. This is part of the reason I recommend registering your sitewith many different directories and gathering whatever other easy links you can get.Some search algorithms may also provide additional weighting on links that haveaged.Cheap Linking OpportunitiesYou would be surprised how cheap some related sites are renting links for. I haverented links from a few of the search engine marketing industry hubs atexceptionally reasonable prices.In addition, blogs and 501(c) tax-exempt organization sites are havens for low-costlinks. Some powerful 501(c) sites will give you a lifetime or year-long links for aslow as a few hundred dollars.Network For Good can help you find a worthy cause located in your area that maybe worth you sponsoring, which can also help you build link authority. I viewsponsoring charities as a true win/win situation.Some blogs are out to lunch on their price. Some blogs are exceptionally link-heavy and provide almost no value on a per-link basis, yet still want to chargehundreds of dollars per month. Some other blog-type sites don’t know their ownvalue and will give you a link for a small one-time donation or review fee. Manybloggers are just having fun and are not out to make a ton of money. Anadditional bonus with blog advertising is that blogs are viral in nature, meaning thatif you have a viral-type product, then you may get many ongoing secondary linksfor free.Just to give you an idea of how cool Blogads are (especially for cause-driven or fun-type sites), I got many additional bonuses for my first ad set I ran. Over half of thesites I ran my first ad on extended my ad longer than I ran it for, completely free.In addition, one site provided me a permanent static text link and another siteplaced my ad on multiple sites free.If you have a message worth spreading, bloggers may help spread it. A couple ofthe more popular blog ad networks are Blogads and AdBrite. Some of the linksprovided by these blog networks may go through redirecting ad servers (and thusnot count toward your link popularity), but the viral nature of blogs make them anideal marketing channel for many messages.Rent Static LinksWhen renting links to improve search engine placement, ensure they are staticdescriptive links versus links with a tracking code or links that get redirectedthrough some sort of ad server. Search engines usually do not evaluate most linksthat are redirected or sent through an ad server.
230Also, think of creative ways you can induce free inbound links before heavilyrenting links. The best ideas tend to find ways to spread themselves. Money spentimproving the idea behind your site is better spent than money spent on rentinglinks since improving your idea or site builds recurring value without as muchrecurring cost.Links with Tracking CodesWhen buying regular ads from websites, if you use tracking URLs, you may notwant to point them at your home page or other pages that already rank well in thesearch results. Some webmasters have bought links from authoritative pages usingtracking URLs only to find that some search engines would spider that link and useTHAT page as the canonical URL.Search engines only want to include each document in their search database once.If a document is available at multiple different locations, like site.com,site.com/index.htm, and www.site.com, the search engine will choose the page thathas the highest authority score, which is usually based on link authority.That may not be a problem in some cases, but one of my friends had over 100,000links pointing to his home page, and his rankings disappeared because the high-authority link rental from a site like CNN.com had a tracking code. Google andYahoo! thought www.site.com/?source=cnn was his home page.Some search engines will usually use the highest PageRank URL as the canonicalURL for a given page. If that URL version does not have good anchor text from avariety of websites, then you risk tanking your rankings if you link to a high-ranking page using a tracking code.Canonical URLsAs stated in the above section about links with tracking codes, search engines onlywant to index one URL for each set of unique content. The “www.-” version of adomain is a subdomain of the root URL. Sometimes the contents are the same,but they are not always on all sites.It is in your best interest to 301 redirect the URL you are not using to point at thein-use version of the URL. This way, you do not run into canonical URL andduplicate content issues. It also will help unify your link popularity if Google isunaware that both URLs are the same site and some people are linking to differentversions of the URL.Make sure you know what your old .htaccess file is, read about modifying it, andknow what you are doing prior to modifying your .htaccess file. Always back upyour old .htaccess file before modifying it.Renting PPC & Contextual Ads for SEO
231While PPC ads run through ad servers, and thus do not aid your link popularity,buying targeted ads can still help boost your exposure. If people find your site theymay be willing to link to it.I buy over $1,000 worth of AdWords and AdSense ads each month for this sitebecause I know it will lead to sales that roughly pay for the ad cost, and I getfurther mindshare and free links from the new readers out of the deal.Linking NetworksCurrently, I do not use any linking network to boost the rankings of my sites, butthere are a few innovative new linking networks that are worth mentioning.Digital Point created a free cooperative advertising network where text links arerandomly rotated across thousands of sites in the network. The advertisingnetwork does not focus on relevancy much yet, so currently it amounts to a big linkfarm, but since it is so well-integrated into the web and spans so many sites, it israther powerful. Some search engines, such as Google, look at temporal effects oflinkage data and are not likely to place much trust on new rotating links. In aThreadwatch post, Matt Cutts may have also hinted that they could use rotatinginbound and outbound links as a sign of a lack of quality and lower a site’s crawlpriority based on that.Link Vault in another link exchange network that acts similarly to Digital Point’snetwork except that it provides static non-rotating links.Before joining any linking network, I would read the pros and the cons listed in thishigh-quality Threadwatch thread at http://www.threadwatch.org/node/808.Ideas that Lend Authority to ThemselvesSome ideas are great link sources. They are easy to build links to and perhapsprovide underpriced ad inventory if you buy ads on them." Stats, numbers, and surveys that sound official" History of _________" Association of _________" Demographic xyz is _____________________If you cannot see any low-hanging fruit ask yourself the following questions:" How can I make an idea appealing to the local or nationalgovernment?" How can I make an idea appealing to colleges?" How can I make an idea that appeals to bloggers?" How can I make an idea appealing to a specific demographic?
232Want a good example? Salary.com conducted a survey that reported that theaverage stay-at-home mother would be paid $134,121 if she was paid for all thework she did raising kids. Mom bloggers probably gave them about $1,000,000worth of links for that research.Want another good example? There are numerous tools that aim to help bloggersdetermine how valuable their blogs are based on how many people link to them.Not surprisingly, most of these tools estimate exceptionally inflated values, whichin turn cause the bloggers to go “Wow, look what I am worth.”What is the bottom line? People like to feel important. If you make others feelimportant, they will do your marketing for you.Waiting for ResultsPatience is a VirtueSEO is a marathon not a sprint. Impatience causes many webmasters to growfrustrated and give up early or use techniques that have a high risk to reward ratio.Many people want to change and change and change until they get to the top.Keep testing new ideas and hope that a few of them catch on. That is just smartmarketing. But as far as SEO goes, you will want to wait a few months after yourinitial optimization before you really start changing anything. Create new contentand new good ideas, but do not worry about going back to your content to re-tweak it over and over again. Rather than tweaking your site, you are probably farbetter off learning more about your topic, making friends, or creating new content.After you feel the page copy is decently structured for usability and SEO, then youdo not need to change it over and over again unless you are trying to test it forconversions. Often times, one of the better ways to test conversion rates isthrough a split A/B test using pay-per-click search engines (will be explained in thepay-per –click chapter).Be ConsistentYou have to give search engines a chance to react to what is there. It would bemuch harder to list well for a competitive term if you used 100 different anchortext combinations. It might be useful to use a half dozen to a few dozen variations.As such, you have to pick and choose. Using a few variations may be a good ideato make your linking appear as natural linking, but you should focus your anchortext around related niches. After you master a few related term sets, you may wantto diversify, but you want to choose wisely and stick with it for a few months.Search engines change their algorithms many times each month. Ranking changesyou see are often due to algorithmic changes and not changes in relevancy basedon small changes in page copy.
233Why Frequently Changing can be BadIf you write a blog or a site with rapidly rotating content, it makes sense that yourcopy will constantly be changing. That is not a problem. People run into aproblem when they waste time obsessive-compulsively tweaking the same pagecopy over and over again. The time spent doing that might be better doing otherpromotional activities or creating new content.If you keep changing your page copy before you establish your online presencewith good links, you will never know what the best page format or layout is. Youwill not be sure how you would rank or convert if you stayed with your copy.If your site is completely hosed, it might make sense to do a major improvement,but otherwise it is a good idea to change only one thing at a time since you cannotisolate the effects if you change everything at once. If your site is a completedisaster, a makeover may be necessary, otherwise just give it time and keep workingon building relevant inbound links.Customizing Your Browser for SEOInternet ExplorerI created free Google Toolbar buttons that make it easy to use some of my favoritefree SEO tools. This will make it easy for you to quickly look up a site’s age orinbound link counts.http://tools.seobook.com/buttons/FirefoxI list my favorite Firefox extensions and bookmarks to help you customize Firefoxto make it SEO friendly on this page.http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/bookmarklets.htmlSEO for Firefox allows you to import competitive research data into the searchresults.http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/seo-for-firefox.htmlInteractive ElementsLiteratureGodin, Seth. All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling AuthenticStories in a Low-Trust World. New York: Penguin, 2005.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1591841003/)
234---. Purple Cow. (http://www.sethgodin.com/purple/)Lakoff, George. Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values andFrame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives.Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004.(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1931498717/)SoftwareBacklink Analyzer: like OptiLink and SEO Elite, but free(http://www.seobook.com/archives/001108.shtml)Backlink Watch (http://www.backlinkwatch.com/)Digital Point Google Ranking Checker(http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/keywords)Espion: tool that allows you to search through sites as if you were asearch bot(http://tools.webguerrilla.com/new-browser-app/)Free buttons to add SEO tools to your Google toolbarhttp://tools.seobook.com/buttons/Free extension list and bookmarks for making Firefox more SEO-friendlyhttp://tools.seobook.com/firefox/bookmarklets.htmlGoLexa (http://www.golexa.com/)Google Toolbar 4 beta (http://www.google.com/tools/toolbar/T4/)Hub Finder (http://www.linkhounds.com/hub-finder/)Link Harvester (http://www.linkhounds.com/link-harvester/)OptiLink ($224) (http://www.optitext.com/)PageRank for Safari (http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/pagerank-mac)RoboForm: form filler (http://www.roboform.com)SEO Elite ($167) (http://www.seoelite.com)SEO for Firefox (http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/seo-for-firefox.html)Server Header Check(http://www.searchengineworld.com/cgi-bin/servercheck.cgi)Show IP: Firefox extension shows what IP Google results are comingfrom(http://l4x.org/site/node/1078)
235Tattler: similar to OptiLink and SEO Elite but free(http://tools.webguerrilla.com/i-deleted-the-download-page/)The Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/)Top 10 Analysis Tool (http://www.webuildpages.com/cool-seo-tool/)Yahoo! Developer Network: various tools(http://developer.yahoo.net/wiki/index.cgi?ApplicationList)Yahoo! Site Explorer (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/)Web SitesCoverage of Google’s new patent(http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2115)(http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2132)Dan Thies’ link building videoshttp://www.seoresearchlabs.com/week2-sample.html andhttp://www.seoresearchlabs.com/linkvideo/Digital Point’s Cooperative Advertising Network(http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/ad-network/)Eric Ward’s NetPOST linking strategies website(http://www.netpost.com/)Google Custom Search Engine (http://google.com/coop/cse/)Google internal spam guidelines and search review document(http://www.seobook.com/archives/000917.shtml)Google Search: Miserable Failure that shows the power of link text(http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=miserable+failure)Google’s Matt Cutts interview on PageRank and link qualityhttp://www.mikegrehan.com/audio/mattcutts/prclip.mp3Greg Boser on reciprocal link networks(http://www.webguerrilla.com/linking/the-truth-about-reciprocal-link-networks/)Jim Boykin’s post about finding the most authoritative and mostrelevant link locations on a topic(http://www.jimboykin.com/tips-for-finding-the-best-pages-to-get-links-from/)(http://www.jimboykin.com/part-two-tips-for-finding-the-best-pages-to-get-links-from/)Latent Semantic Indexing information(http://javelina.cet.middlebury.edu/lsa/out/cover_page.htm)
236Link Spam Detection Based on Mass Estimation(http://www.seobook.com/archives/001342.shtml)Link Vault link exchange network (http://www.link-vault.com)Linking 101 (http://www.linking101.com)Linking Matters (http://www.linkingmatters.com)Major search engine search volume breakdown(http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/index.php)Mike Grehan’s Filthy Linking Rich(http://www.search-engine-book.co.uk/filthy_linking_rich.pdf)Paul Graham’s How to Start a Startup article: free example of anarticle that helps build links(http://www.paulgraham.com/start.html)Problems with SEO-friendly affiliate programs(http://www.overthemark.com/seoblog/item/51)Search Engine Watch: Danny Sullivan’s search engine informationwebsite.(http://www.searchenginewatch.com)SearchBistro: site that posted the Google search reviewerdocuments. (http://www.searchbistro.com/guide.pdf)(http://www.searchbistro.com/spamguide.doc)SearchDay: the free Search Engine Watch newsletter(http://searchenginewatch.com/about/article.php/2155721)Text Link Ads (http://www.text-link-ads.com/)Threadwatch thread about link exchange networks(http://www.threadwatch.org/node/808)We Build Pages page about pre-sell pages(http://www.webuildpages.com/presell-pages.htm)We Build Pages query combination tool(http://www.webuildpages.com/search/)WeSubmitArticles.com – cheap article submission site(http://www.wesubmitarticles.com/)World Wide Web Consortium (http://www.w3c.org)SEO Article SitesInternet Search Engine Database (http://www.isedb.com/)LilEngine (http://www.lilengine.com/)SearchGuild (http://www.searchguild.com/)
237SEO News Journal (http://www.seojournal.com)Sticky Sauce (http://www.stickysauce.com/)General Article SitesArticle Central (http://thewhir.com/find/articlecentral/)Buzzle (http://www.buzzle.com)eBooks N’ Bytes (http://www.ebooksnbytes.com/)Ezine Articles (http://ezinearticles.com/)IdeaMarketers (http://www.ideamarketers.com/)SearchWarp (http://searchwarp.com/)More Article IdeasMy list of article submission locations(http://www.seobook.com/archives/000099.shtml)Other ResourcesAdBrite (http://www.adbrite.com/)Blogads (http://www.blogads.com)Network For Good (http://www.networkforgood.org/)Some Notes" Download the Google Toolbar if you are using Internet explorer. Tryit out on a few sites to see what PageRank the top-ranked competitorsin your vertical have." Write an article about something that interests you that relates to yourbusiness. Submit that article to Ezine Articles and SearchWarp.Practice writing at least one article a week." Glance through my list of article submission locations.(http://www.seobook.com/archives/000099.shtml)" If you are a great writer and can write exceptionally authoritativearticles, get one published on a selective site on which it is hard to getpublished.
238Viral Marketing & theSocial WebSearch engines aim to emulate searchers and web users. If you acquire links thatreal people click on, buy from, and share with friends, then your site will rank well.The days of working your way to the top of Google by buying or automatingthousands of junky links to a new domain have come and gone. The opening postin this thread http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum12/3047.htm describes howSEO and link building have become a more holistic game.Viral marketing is the fastest, cheapest, and most effective form of linkbuilding.Problems with Manufacturing RelevancyArtificial ReputationNo matter how smart you are, if you artificially manufacture 100% of your websitereputation, Google can probably detect it one way or another.Chapter8
239Google collects an immense amount of data, and user data may heavily augmentlink reputation as being an important piece of the algorithm.There will always be good ideas you can do, and under-priced marketingopportunities, but if something is not working, odds are that it may help to look atwhat you are doing from a more holistic approach.From what I have seen, most people selling SEO services are not highly focusedon relationships. Real marketing, based on social relationships, is going to be muchharder for your competitors to compete against. You cannot just ask for a qualityeditorial link from the Wall Street Journal, but if you figure out how to get one thenyour competitor is at a disadvantage.Real versus ArtificialOn Being RealSites that are real and useful tend to get far more quality editorial links than bogussites. Even mildly interesting sites pick up links. Sure you have to give yourself apush around launch time, but after that, most sites will float or sink based on howinteresting people think they are.I have a personal rant blog that has about four subscribers, and yet a writer for ZiffDavis added my site to his blogroll. It also has some other editorial links that I amuncertain how it acquired, but exposure leads to more exposure. Being real meansyour site will snowball quicker than cheesy passionless sites.While I did not work hard to optimize my personal blog, that site still gets about10% to 20% of the traffic that my main blog does while only requiring about 3%of the effort, simply because it is real and many of the topics I post about on it donot have many competing sites.Why New Sites Cannot Compete With Old Ones in GoogleYou can look at search results and see a lead generation site at the top of the resultsand do almost everything they are doing and still get nowhere. Why?The answer is fivefold:" Domain history. Google trusts sites that have aged." Link quality. Links used to flow much more easily than they do now.If you try to replicate a competitor’s links, odds are you will not be ableto get a few of their most important ones. The editorial quality linksare the hardest to gain and pull the most weight in search results.
240Since the web has more content on it now, and search is so muchmore relevant, the quality needed to be linkworthy is much greaterthan it once was. For example, if a site like SeoToday.com launchedtoday it would not be able to compete with all of the social SEO sites,but because it is aged and well-integrated into the community, it sticksnear the top of Google’s search results." Link age. In a similar fashion to how Google may trust olderdomains more than new ones, they may also put greater weight onaged links." Usage data. If a site has been serving visitors for many years, it willtake you awhile to build up that much usage data. Plus, a site that hasaged and has had many visitors has many more visitors who may bewilling to link to it." Flipping the switch. Many high-profit, authoritative sites only hadthe profit element added long after they became authoritative. Manypeople, like me, only accidentally stumbled onto business models.Some of the sites that later became highly commercialized may nothave been worthy of a link in their current form, but were easier to linkto when they were less commercial and there were fewer resources onthe web. You can visit Archive.org to see how most sites looked in thepast.ShortcutsThere are four main ways around the problem of trying to rank new sites inGoogle:" Waiting. Perhaps it is worth creating a few new sites, building them afew, decent, quality links, and then letting them age. This is the boringoption, but eventually one of your channels may start to do well andthen you can pour more resources into it.If you are starting from scratch with limited resources, it may also beworth it to make your site lean towards being an informational/non-commercial site so it is easier to link at. If a new site is not gettingmany visitors, then the odds are pretty good it would not make muchmoney anyway. So make the site easy to link to and then after you getlink equity (and thus authority), introduce relevant commercialelements to it.If few people in your industry have useful, meaningful journals aboutyour topic, who do you think the media will find when they use searchengines to try to find information about it? You!" Buy an Old Site. One of the best ways to build a natural link profile isto go buy an old, non-commercial site that is well integrated into the
241web. Search for things related to your field and add words like history,organization, or other non-commercial terms.Some sites will go far cheaper than you would expect because anowner may not be profiting from it and may not know what theirmarket position is worth." Viral marketing. If you can bake viral marketing into your product orwebsite, that can help you gain many natural editorial links and a bunchof usage data quickly. Sometimes the viral marketing bubbles up toreach the mainstream news.Within five days of accidentally launching a viral marketing campaign(by announcing I was being sued), I ended up getting links from theWall Street Journal and many other mainstream sources. I also madethe Digg homepage many times due to things like creating an SEOglossary, launching SEO for Firefox, and writing a page about thehistory of search engines." Niche: If an area is hyper-saturated, create your brand around a sub-sector that is not yet hyper-saturated.Rather than being yet another SEO, become an expert on linkbuilding, viral marketing, or conversion.Things Google Can TrackDomain History" Has it changed ownership?" Has it expired?" How long has the site been live?" Is it about the same topic as older versions of it?" Where is this site hosted? Local hosts are good for local sites. Freehosting sites or sites associated with spam might be a bad call.Link History & Quality" Have links grown naturally over time?" If the link growth is spiky, were there also associated news spikes ormany pages generated on other blogs and news sites about this topicaround the same time? Was there a traffic spike to the site around thetime of the link spike?" Is the anchor text mixed up? Does the anchor text look natural? Isthe site’s current anchor text similar to past anchor text?
242" Are there a large number of deep links and many inbound citationsfrom quality sites?" Do any of the new citations come from new pages on old trusted sites?That is how viral stories typically spread—most new links come fromnew content, not people editing links into their old content." Are any of the links from high-quality pages? Who links to the pageslinking to you?" Are any of the links from related pages that link to related resources orhave links from related resources? These links help identify whatcommunities a page or site belong to." Do people actually follow any of the links pointing to the site?" Do people who visit your site stay for a while?" Has this site been losing many old citations from old trusted sites likeDMOZ and the Yahoo! Directory? If so, why?" What is the ratio of high-quality links to low-quality links?" Does it link out to quality sites or does it hoard link popularity? It istypically hard to get natural citations to your site if you are not willingto cite any other sites." Does this site have sections of cheesy off topic reciprocal links orother signs of link manipulation?Content History and Content Generation Spikes" Is the content growth natural? For example, why would a real, quality,twenty-page site gain 100,000 new pages overnight?" Do most pages have unique content?" Are pages so similar that the site is just an empty product database fullof duplicate content?" Is it an automated content generation or thin affiliate site? What is thevalue add of the site? Why would someone want to bookmark it orvisit it instead of other sites in the same vertical?" Is the site well-themed or random in nature?" Is the site content biased toward information or commerce?" Is your writing natural? How does it compare to known spam sites?How does it compare to known authority sites? How does it compareto text in books Google has scanned?Usage data" Is the site brand new or does it have years of trusted usage data?" Data from Google Toolbars and Google Accounts" User acceptance via data gained from Google Analytics" User acceptance via user action after Google searches (or perhaps evensearches on other engines if you have the toolbar installed). If mostpeople click the back button right away, that is probably a bad sign." Are people bookmarking your site?
243" If you have a feed, are people adding your RSS feed to their GoogleToolbar or Google Reader?" How frequently do visitors revisit your site?" How frequently is new content added relative to repeat visits?" Are people e-mailing each other or chatting about your site? Googlehas Gmail and Google Talk. They could look at that information todetermine brand reach.Brand/Site Awareness" Are people searching for your site name or brand names frequently?" Is that search frequency increasing or going down?" Do people refine their query or use a different engine if your site is notin the results? Do they eventually find their way to your site? Are thesearch results incomplete without your site showing up?" Offline awareness can translate into online awareness." Are people blogging about your site on Blogger or other bloggingplatforms?" Google also bought Measure Map, so they will further be able to tracktemporal blogging activity and linkage data." Google News can track news and citations about your site." Are people e-mailing each other or chatting about your site?Keyword Value" Are you buying any keywords? What do visitors do after clicking onads linked to your site?" Are the keywords that this site targets expensive? Are they commercialor informational in nature?" How many people are bidding on your keywords? What other types ofsites are buying similar keywords?" Commercial keyword markets may have additional algorithmicrelevancy elements than non-commercial or low-value terms." What is the average lead value or conversion rate for sites in thismarket? Google has Google Checkout, historical AdWords bidamounts, search volume, Google Analytics, and AdWords conversiondata to help understand the size of a market." Are people advertising for your brand? What are those sites related to?What Sites You Visit Often" Do they have the same WhoIs data?" Are they known to spam search engines? Are they trusted sites?" Do they have trusted linkage data?" Are they topically related?" Do people visiting your site visit related sites often?
244My Tinfoil Hat Theories…Does Google Track All of the Above?I do not want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, and I doubt Google activelytracks and uses all the above for all domains. The point is, if they find itcomputationally valuable, they can mix in any of those variables. The ones that donot add enough value can get pulled right back out while other variables are tested.As Google buys access to more and more data and control a larger portion of thesearch market, they essentially become the default web host, tracking most thingsthat happens on the web (via their ads, toolbar, analytics, search products, andother feedback methods). If Google can make sense of all that data, they are goingto be pretty hard to manipulate unless people trust your site.They are buying up dark fiber and creating better algorithms, while the cost of theirhardware is negligible when compared to their revenue. More and more peopleare creating both fake content and exceptionally high-quality content every day.Many businesses are getting marginalized from both edges.Domain TrustMost new sites using the Digital Point Co-Op link exchange network get negligibleresults from using it. Some older, trusted sites may pack more punch in using it,but keep in mind that it may be risky to use.It all comes down to earning trust, weighing risk vs reward, and computationalpower. If your site has proved itself to be trustworthy, you can get away withhaving more potentially negative signals, but you also have more to lose if you getcaught abusing your trust.Building Quick TrustThe best ways to build lots of quality trust signs quickly are to do the following:" Give away useful information and services that people want." Participate in the community." Create a holistic marketing plan that creates brand evangelists.If you build all of those things, you will get loads of search traffic, but search trafficwill not matter as much since you will also have other traffic streams. Plus, ifpeople like you and the search engines remove your site from their results, it mayhurt the search engine’s brand credibility far more than it hurts yours. Rememberthe BMW story?
245Is Your Site Future Ready?Some companies, like Olive Software, are working at formatting offline content tomake it accessible online. Imagine if a search engine buys them and works outdeals with many publishers to bring offline content online.Think about billions of quality offline articles, magazines, newspapers, and otherdocuments becoming searchable online. When people have the ability to searchthrough that information and link to it, those documents are going to be hard tocompete with on the relevancy front unless your site or business has a strongbrand, multiple reasons to link or deep link to it, or some social aspect to it.Millions of spammy AdSense sites will die away as no longer being viable businessentities when higher quality content is readily available for free.Don’t Discount the Present OpportunityGoogle may continue to grow more complex and harder to manipulate, but if youhave an old, trusted site, Google is not hard to game. And, as it stands, Yahoo! andMSN are rather easy to spam.While Yahoo! and MSN have less market share than Google does, I would bewilling to wager that, on average, MSN searchers are not as smart as the averageGoogle searcher., and thus are easier to monetize via contextual ad clicks or otherad based monetization modelsPeople searching at MSN and Yahoo! may be less web savvy, more gullible, andclick on more ads on your site if they are unable to distinguish ads from content.They may also believe what you say in your sales letter more, and thus be easier tosell to.The Importance of Linking OutOne of the easiest ways to build authority and mindshare is to become a platform.Regularly link out to high-quality interesting news. If people see you talking wellabout them they are more likely to pay attention to you, especially because manybloggers do link searches to see what others are saying about them. (Refer back tothe article by Chartreuse about Paris Hilton that I mentioned earlier, if you haventread it already.)Most authority sites were hub sites that talked about their community and linked topeople in their community long before they gained authority status. If people likeyour website enough they may link at it, and some may also subscribe to your RSSfeed.If your community supports you, eventually search engines will too.The Social Web
246As more and more people publish websites using blogs or other simple contentmanagement systems, the value of creating a quality viral marketing idea increasesdaily.Ideas featured on popular blogs or social news sites can offer exposure that leads tohundreds or thousands of high-quality editorial links. Viral marketing on the socialweb is the equivalent of using nuclear weapons for link building, but because viralmarketing is considered legitimate (and creates natural link profiles), it offers hugepotential upside with limited downside.Social News Sites & Social BookmarkingThere are many sites that allow users to vote on popular news or bookmark andshare interesting web pages. Because these users store their own data, it is easy forthe service to be highly relevant to those individuals, and many users actuallybecome marketers for the service when they try to promote their own stories.Some of the most popular social news sites are Digg, Netscape, Reddit, andNewsvine. Some of the most popular social bookmarking sites are Del.icio.us, MyYahoo!, Furl, Shadows, StumbleUpon, Simpy, and Ma.gnolia.com.Some markets also have vertically oriented news sites. Pligg is a free open sourcesoftware program that allows you to create a vertically focused Digg clone.If you are unsure of how these sites work, you may want to set up test accountsand use them for a few hours. By seeing how they work and what gets promoted,it should make you better at creating ideas that spread.Meme TrackersThere are also numerous meme trackers like Techmeme that automatically trackwhat stories are spreading through the blogosphere. Some of the best storiesfeatured on many blogs or social news sites can pick up free additional exposurefrom meme trackers, and thus wind up talked about on more blogs.Link BaitingThe idea of link baiting is to create a piece of content that is centered on a setdemand from a specific audience. To whom do you want to relate? Why wouldthey care? What would make them likely to spread your idea?For example, Salary.com sponsored research stating that work at home moms did$134,121 worth of work each year. Because it was packaged as research and a storypeople would want to spread it spread far and wide.Some Common Link-Baiting Techniques" Talk about a specific community.
247" Give people a way to feel important about themselves, someone theycare about, or something they feel should be important." Take recent events and scale them out to others in your community." Be provocative or controversial." Be a contrarian." Be thorough.Controlling Your Message" Launch your story on a main channel such that you can change yourmessaging or update your offering based on feedback. If the wronggroup runs with your story you may not want to stop them! #$" If you do not have a main channel on which you can launch your idea,try to launch your idea by giving a popular channel such asTechCrunch the exclusive on your story." If possible, build trust and attention in the marketplace well ahead ofwhen you need to leverage it." Consider potential blowback ahead of time. Depending on theimportance of your message and brand strategy, you may want to makeyour message easy to misinterpret, or you may want to make yourmessage clearer." Create common link points. Do not throw away your link equity. Forexample, here are a couple ways people throw away link equity theyearned:o Some book authors do not create an official page about theirbook on their site, and thus just give away the link equity andtop ranking to an online bookstore.o Many people use Surveymonkey or some other 3rdparty votingservice when they create contests and polls. If you can includethe voting script on your site you keep that link authorityassociated with your site even after the poll closes and peopleno longer talk about it.Magnetic Headlines" Be specific with your headlines. Salary.com stating that work at homemoms are worth $134,121 a year is probably going to spread furtherthan if they said $200,000." Write your headlines with the intent of spreading them. Focus moreon writing something that evokes emotional responses and spreadrather than writing for keywords and SEO." Given that many social news sites have a voting mechanism that doesnot even require people to read the article to vote, the title may be farmore important than the actual content of your link bait." Copy Blogger offers great free headline writing tips.
248Me Me Me…the Selfish Web" People like to view themselves as being important.o Many bloggers search for links to their blogs on Technorati orGoogle Blog Search multiple times each day (I typically do).o Calling out specific people, especially with humor, is an easyway to build linkage data.o Digg frequently has homepage stories about Digg or Diggusers.o People are more likely to believe and spread messages thatreinforce their world view." Community involvement is important to help others identify with andfeel ownership in your link bait." When Rand Fishken launched his Search Engine Ranking Factors, hecollected feedback from about a dozen prominent members in theSEO community. Many of those people are active communitymembers who helped spread the news at launch time.o Asking people for feedback can help others feel ownership inyour idea, and is a way to pitch them on your idea withoutlooking sleazy.Seeding Your Idea" Ask for feedback from people who may be interested in helping youimprove your idea or helping you market it." Leverage friends and contacts via instant message and email." Pitch relevant bloggers and media sources. It is preferable to buildrapport prior to pitching." Build accounts on social news sites." Some social news sites allow you to place voting buttons on your site.Do so on your most important ideas." Consider the best times and locations to launch your idea." Have a friend or yourself submit your best ideas to the mostauthoritative and relevant social news sites.o Ensures your story has a title that is easy to vote for.o Ensures your story is submitted at an appropriate time.o If you do not do it soon after mentioning a story on your ownsite someone else may submit for you, using a dumb title ordumb post content.Launching a Static SiteEven if your site is fairly static in nature you can still create a buzz when you launchit." Call in favors from people you helped in the past." Incorporate community ideas into your idea.
249" Spread out your ideas. For example, if you are forming a newpartnership you can triple dip on publicity:o Interview partners on another channel.o Announce the launch.o Add linkbait to the site at a later point in time.Formatting Link Bait" Make it easy to identify and connect with. Think about humanemotions and tap the sense of empathy." You may want to make your idea look polarized such that it especiallyappeals to one group and/or especially offends another. If otherpeople are fighting over guessing your intentions, you will get qualitylinks." Make your link bait look comprehensive.o Perception is more important than reality.o Most writing is quite wasteful in nature, because you have totrim off much of what you create.o By creating ordered lists of factoids, an incomplete story canlook well researched, even if it is not. For example, if youmake a list of 101 ways to do x, people may give a few ideasand some feedback, but nobody is going to sit and list 383ways to do x." Cite research, further reading, and link out to related resources fromwithin your content. It makes your story look well-researched andassociates your work with other trusted names or brands in your field.You may even want to cite a few people that you want links from." Dress up your link bait using quality design and/or relevant imagesfrom sites like Istockphoto.Monetizing Link Bait" Make your link bait easy to link at." Don’t over-monetize it right out of the gate. Make it look like researchthat is easy to cite rather than a piece of commercial information." In Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content, Clay Shirky stressedthe importance of gaining authority to gain scale and distribution if youwant to make money online." Link bait rarely makes much money or directly pays for itself from thedirect traffic. However, it has amazing indirect value.o People who pay attention to the active portions of the web arefar more likely to be web publishers than those who do not.o Even if people do not link to your link bait idea right away, youstill gain mindshare and brand recognition amongst a group ofpeople who have significant authority.
250o Many search engines, such as Google, use authority centricrelevancy algorithms. Editorial links are seen as votes or signsof trust.o In Google, getting a link to any part of your site will help makeall pages on your site more authoritative." Two weeks after launching a linkbait, my Google traffic and siteearnings more than doubled on a site that was getting thousands ofvisitors and making over $100 a day from AdSense before the viralmarketing campaign.Bubbling Up" Social news sites and social bookmarking sites have recently popularlists that many people read." Meme trackers track what stories are quickly spreading through theblogosphere." Exposure on either of these can cause additional exposure and morelinkage data. Many bloggers and some mainstream media outlets (likethe MSNBC Clicked Blog) use these social news sites to find stories orsources.Don’t Compete With YourselfBe careful what you name your link bait ideas. If your link bait is well-executed andtargets keywords important to other pages on your site, the link bait will likelyoutrank your other pages in the search results. My SEO for Firefox page nearlyoutranks my homepage in Google for SEO.Blurring Editorial vs Ads & Editors vs UsersAlgorithms, Crowdsurfing, & Marginalizing MediaMany old media companies ran region-based monopolies that the web largelyundermines. Due to increased content online, more linkage data, improved searchrelevancy, improved ad targeting, and increased competition, the mainstream mediawebsites are losing market share as their margins are getting compressed.Many media companies are looking for way to turn their readers into participantsin their news process, but just about any way they can find a signal amongst thenoise search engines will be able to beat them because search engines will be ableto process more raw data from more sources more intelligently and faster.Communities Killing Themselves
251Any time there is uproar in an authority-based system it presents an opportunityfor manipulation via public relations, institutional analysis, or manipulating newalgorithmic holes.Given enough time, most any community will push its own limits toward selfdestruction. Clay Shirky’s A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy highlights this pattern.Ads & Content BlurMany mainstream media companies pretend that there is a strict line betweeneditorial and advertising, but consider the following:" The U.S. government uses war video games at pizza parties to recruit13 year old children to die." Many road toll booths have ads on them." Product placement is a large part of the movie industry." Television news stations openly take public relations-packaged videonews releases and roll them into their broadcasts as though they arehomegrown reports.There are a number of online paid review services that have been given flak asthough they should be held to a higher standard than mainstream mediaorganizations that never disclosed payola even when they operated as marketmonopolies.ReviewsAmazon and many other sites are leveraging their user experience to createextensible central review databases.Recently a few blog advertisement networks launched that aim to allow advertisersto tap decentralized review networks. I am a part owner in one of them, calledReviewMe. These networks are looking for ways to sell influence more efficientlythan AdSense or other similar ads do.If advertisers are responsive to the reviews, they may be able to find new markets,better target ads, improve their perceived value, and improve conversion rates. Iftheir products are of exceptional quality, their initial ad may lead to a viral linkcampaign discussing their product.Q & AAmazon, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and numerous smaller companies are trying toleverage users to answer questions. If these large companies leverage theirexposure to distribute these questions and answers, it may be a cheap form ofmarketing to answer a few relevant questions.
252WidgetsIf you are struggling to build link equity and mindshare, you might be able to dowell packaging your service and allowing others to include it in their websites.Google Gadgets and many other systems are allowing people to easily plugdynamic features and third party data into static sites.LensesWork.com and Squidoo allow you to create topic focused guide pages that can bereviewed by others. These sites can act as easy link sources, and also reinforce yourmarket position as a market leader in your marketplace.These sites can also provide an SEO testing platform. If you are starting a sitefrom scratch, you may want to try to rank a page on an older, established site likeone of these first.As mainstream media and other content websites focused on scalability arelaunched, there will be an increasingly large number of places where you can buildfree exposure and free link equity from trusted sources.Spamming Social SitesThere are many tricks to spamming social news sites. For example, User Submitterallows advertisers to spam Digg for about $50.I have seen some stories promoted by spamming that were nuked when theyreached the home page, only to see the same story linking to the same site stick twodays later because it was marketed in a less aggressive and more distributedmanner.If you use a hybrid technique (have a fairly legitimate account, create quality linkbait, and promote decent quality content), you are going to be far more likely tohave your marketing stick than if you are just trying to hard spam junk stories.Leveraging AuthorityIf a search relevancy algorithm heavily weighs domain authority, like Google’s in2006, it is going to be easier to rank a page on an authoritative domain than to ranka page on a new domain. By creating pages on a lense site or submitting newsstories to trusted social news sites you can leverage their domain authority.Some video hosting and audio syndication sites also have nearly unlimited domain-specific trust, which will make it easy to rank pages on their sites. Some merchantssell on Amazon or eBay. Classified sites like Craigslist are highly trusted. SomeQ&A sites are listed off subdomains of trusted domains. There are also manyconsumer generated media sites, mashups, and event sites that are authoritative andcan rank quickly.
253Market EdgesIn the Directories section, I noted that many lower quality general directoriesconsist of low-quality inbound links and low-quality outbound links. That sameimage can be used for types of links and levels of link quality on the web as awhole.If you (and thousands of other marketers) are picking away at market edges(trading cheesy reciprocal links, joining automated link networks, using the samecontent sources, promoting the same spammy affiliate offers, trying to find cheapdirectory links, getting links from FFA pages, etc.), those market edges will be easilyidentifiable as being associated with the color red (i.e., bad). And because the activeportions of the web are growing in scope daily, the authority/value/reach/trust ofthe static web is decreasing daily, which is a bad sign for those relying on picking atthe edges of it for scraps of authority.If, on the other hand, you come up with creative ways to be mentioned in theactive portions of the web, your site will keep gaining authority. As the algorithmsevolve they will prop you up more and more because your link equity and othersigns of quality will clearly be in the green.Competitors will get slaughtered by changes in the dynamics of the web thatpromote those featured in the active portions of the web, many low-quality sitesreplicating the moves of the low-quality sites that actually managed to rank (andthus associating their profiles with junk parts of the web), and improved searchrelevancy algorithms.
254ResourcesLiteratureClay Shirky’s A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy(http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html)Clay Shirky’s Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments vs Free Content(http://shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html)Fake TV News (http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary)Good thread about building value, traffic, and linkage data (requiresregistration) (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum12/3047.htm)Paris Hilton as a Platform(http://chartreuse.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/why-paris- hilton-is-famous-or-understanding-value-in-a-post-madonna-world/)General Sites of Relevance
255Copy Blogger’s Magnetic Headlines(http://www.copyblogger.com/magnetic-headlines/)Internet Archive: view how a site looked in the past(http://www.archive.org)Istockphoto (http://www.istockphoto.com/)Olive Software: company that formats offline content in a machine-readable XML format (http://www.olivesoftware.com/)ReviewMe (http://www.reviewme.com/)Squidoo (http://www.squidoo.com/)User Submitter – Digg spamming site (http://www.usersubmitter.com/)Work.com (http://www.work.com/)Social News SitesDigg (http://www.digg.com/)Netscape (http://www.netscape.com/)Newsvine (http://www.newsvine.com/)Pligg – software to create a Digg clone (http://www.pligg.com/)Reddit (http://www.reddit.com/)Social Bookmarking SitesDel.icio.us (http://www.del.icio.us/)Furl (http://www.furl.net/)Ma.gnolia.com (http://ma.gnolia.com/)My Yahoo! (http://my.yahoo.com/)Shadows (http://www.shadows.com/)Simpy (http://www.simpy.com/)StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com/)Meme TrackersTechmeme (http://www.techmeme.com/)Some Notes" Sign up for an account at Del.icio.us, Digg, and at least one othersocial bookmarking or social news site.
256" Spend at least an hour on each one figuring out how they work." What could you create that would relate the topic of your sites to oneof these communities?
257Monitoring ResultsSearch engine marketing is an ongoing process that never really ends. Markets andbusiness models constantly evolve. You should reserve some time each month forreading customer feedback, reading the market, viewing the competition, andcreating new ideas to help spread your brand exposure.The web grows with or without you, so if you are stagnant, then you are fallingbehind.When Results Don’t ShowThink BigWith pay-per-click marketing (covered in chapter 10) or regular search engineoptimization, you should always be looking to improve your bottom line. Hostinghas gotten so cheap that more traffic does not usually cost much more money.Most people rarely come near their hosting limits.Pay-per-click advertising is the same thing that Don LaPree preached with hisnewspaper ads, except that it is more trackable and has faster feedback loops. Youfind something that is marginally profitable and repeat it many times over. Keeprefining the ads and increase profit margins.The Value of Large, Reputable ServicesSometimes, results never show up. That is why it is important to stick with thelarger pay-per-click search engines when you use them. If you start using smallones, you not only have to spend more time managing many accounts, but youmay also buy junky, machine-generated traffic. The things you need to focus onare your site, your brand, your web integration, your ads, and your conversions. Itis easy to lose focus of the big picture if you are trying to maintain 25 accounts.Why Isn’t It Working?With regular search listings, it can take months of optimization and gatheringquality links to rank well. If your site does not list at all after a month or two(especially for focused terms such as your own domain name or domain string),Chapter9
259redirects. Yahoo! editors may remove your site from their search index if theynotice deceptive redirects.If you do move a site or page, you can use a 301 redirect to allow the linkpopularity to pass through to the new location. That is not considered deceptiveas long as the pages are about the same topic.If you do move site locations, you will want to leave the old site up for about aweek to ensure search engines and Internet service providers have updated the oldDNS details for your site before taking it down. Make sure you keep the olddomain registered after you move your site so that the links from your redirectdomain stay active. Some people let them lapse and lose much of their link equitywhen the well linked domains expire.Link RentingWhen renting links make sure you rent relevant links. The more under the radaryour link buy is the more likely it is to be affordable and carry weight long-term.Why? If few marketers are looking at the same sources as you do, then yoursources may be cheaper than expected and stay out of the range of most marketersbecause they may not think of them as being accessible. Also, if your bought linkslook like organic citations AND few people are getting links from the samesources, the odds are quite low that search engines are going to want to devaluethem.When renting links, it is usually best to focus on quality and relevancy overquantity. Rent links that will drive direct traffic from related sites. That providesthe maximum return potential while providing the minimum risk exposure.Google’s Adam Lasnik left this comment on my blogThere is, admittedly, a bit of fuzziness in this, but cases we see quite oftentend to be rather cut and dry. Buying a link on a high-PR site that happensto be in tiny font on the very bottom of a footer? Probably not beingpurchased as "advertising"... not for the purposes of drawing traffic orgarnering brand recognition. As you might guess, those arent the sort oflinks we see as trusted votes for a site.It is important to consider risk exposure when renting links as well. If you are tooaggressive with renting links it may not only waste your money, but it may get yoursite banned for relevancy manipulation.The best way to buy or rent links is typically indirectly, by creating some sort ofpackaged value system, contest, or controversy that many people are willing to linkat. By creating packaged value systems it makes it harder for competitors toreverse engineer and replicate what you have done, while providing a link profilethat looks more natural to search engineers.Creating a Link Network
260In 2006, Google really started pushing up the rewards for having an authoritydomain, so creating many smaller sites in link networks is generally not asprofitable as it once was.One of the biggest benefits of creating mini sites is that it allows you to segregaterisks, business models, and audience profiles." If a company you affiliate with would not like to associate their brandwith an aggressive and cheesy viral link campaign, then you might beable to use that link campaign to build up a feeder site not directlyassociated with the monetization model." If you are using an aggressive or underhanded marketing technique,making it look as though some independent affiliate was responsible isanother way to shield your brand from damage due to questionabletactics. Just look at how many content spammers Google pays toclutter up Yahoo! and MSN search results with spammy AdSense sites." If you wanted to tap a market and a group that hates that market itwould be hard to do both using a single brand and domain.Creating link networks can be an effective SEO technique if done correctly, thoughif your link renting or site networks are done exclusively to manipulate searchresults, and they are easily detectable, you may get penalized by algorithms orhuman editors employed by search engines.Linking a bunch of small sites together also shows up easily if you do not have abunch of different external links pointing into your link network. Many searchengines also have the ability to devalue links from the same C block IP range orfrom the same owner. Make sure if you do this that your sites look legitimate andunique, or that you use mixed WhoIs data, various hosts for different sites, andmany links pointing into your sites from outside your network.If you create link networks and do not have original, useful content on each site(and reasons for creating the many sites), then you are taking a risk that your sitemay be removed from search results.Hidden TextWhile it is sometimes hard for a search engine to find, fellow webmasters may ratyou out to the search engines for hiding text. Hidden text usually exists on sitesthat have other problems as well. If the search engines find it, they may drop thesite.Keyword stuffing and using invisible text adds little on the reward side; there arefar more effective SEO techniques to use.Sometimes the legitimacy of a technique is determined by who did it. For example,if your site accepts user feedback and some of your users are bad at spelling, it does
261not look bad, but if you were to manually stuff a bunch of misspelled keywords onthe bottom of a page that would look much more questionable.CloakingIf cloaking is done correctly, it is hard to detect. The problem with deceptivecloaking is that it builds no intrinsic value. A s the web grows, your site staysstagnant. I would not be interested in chancing my long-term financial stability onthe ability of one software program to stay ahead of the major search enginesindefinitely.If you use cloaking, I would recommend going with one of the best:,Fantomaster.com.Link Building/Spam TangentBlack hat is the term given to some aggressive SEO practices. As a business, labelsdo not matter. The only criteria that matters is if something is effective or not. Arethe risks you are taking logical risks? Are you doing aggressive techniques withsites that cannot afford the risk? Or have you factored the risks into your actions?I created BlackHatSEO.com as an example directory of promotional ideas that willtypically waste your time and money. Creating BlackHatSEO.com caused somepeople to view me in a negative light.Even if people hate something, they may talk about it. So, as the idea spreads, Iwill become more well-known. To be extremely successful on the web, youeither have to be really good or really bad. That site is really bad, but it has aclear purpose. Now the entire industry has to either come up with a different catchphrase or my site sticks as the official answer, as it is the exact matching domainand ranks #1 in Google for that term. Either way, I get marketing power I canleverage in the future!Within six months of making that site, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watchmentioned it in a new article about spam. Since that site has been up, it has costless than $5 a month and has generated thousands of dollars worth of business,link popularity, and notoriety." It is hard for me to get people to link to “Aaron Wall: SEOConsultant.”" It is somewhat easier for me to get links to “SEO Book Tips on Howto Spam Google.”" It is even easier for me to get links to “101 Ways to Build LinkPopularity in 2006”" It is extremely easy for me to get links to “Black Hat SEO: Funny LinkDirectory of Deceptive Practices.”End of Tangent
262Automated Content GenerationIf you create a new collaborative filter or a value system that makes people want toadd quality content to your site, it will generally be viewed as a positive thing.If you scrape content from other sources and add little to no value and areaggressive with your ad placement, the site is much less likely to stick.Duplicate content detection has improved greatly. Some search engines may alsohave filters that compare a site’s growth rate to its historical growth rate, or itscontent growth rate vs. link growth rate.Cross Site Scripting ErrorsSome content management systems have errors that allow webmasters to add linksto other websites or create pages on other websites. Some search spammers createfinance and pharmacy pages on trusted domains. These pages generally rank wellfor a short period of time until the search engines find the footprint and removethe associated pages from their indexes.Why Frames are EvilThough it is not typically a spam technique, I recommend that you not use frames.The problem with frames is that everything on the Internet has an easily accessibledefined location, except framed pages.When the home page of a framed site has a defined location, the search engine willnot group the other pages as part of their frame sets. All the internal documentswill show as stand-alone pages that will require you to use redirects to display theframeset. You can use a noframes tag to allow search engines to read thecontent, but you will still have other major problems.The most evil thing about frames is that if I do not know what the URL of one ofyour great articles is, then how can I link to it? If I can’t link people directly tothe most targeted and relevant piece of information on your site, then the odds aregood that I will not link or will just link elsewhere.Aggressive SEO Practices That Still HelpWhen a person is paying for placement in the Yahoo! Directory, they are rentinglinks the same way that “unethical” SEO firms are. Ethics is generally a bogus termto use in relation to SEO. Effective versus ineffective and risk versus reward are betterways of describing different SEO practices.When exchanging links, you do not want to exchange links with a site that does notadd value to your user experience or offer you great strategic advantages. Whensearch was less sophisticated (and I was poor and more naïve), I reciprocated links
263with a few off-topic sites, but usually I would only consider doing this if my sitewas new and theirs was extremely powerful. Junky link exchanges are probablyunnecessary for most websites, and can put your website in a bad community.Most effective and successful websites do not need to do things like exchangelinks.When buying links, you should look at local 501(c) tax-exempt organization sites,blogs, and other sites that sell high-value, authoritative links rather cheaply.Sometimes sites inside your industry will rent or sell links at reasonable prices aswell. The more relevant a link is, and the more editorial it seems, the less risk thereis in the purchase.Aggressive SEO FirmsMany people will play the ethics angle to promote themselves. Search engine ethicsis a rather bogus concept when you consider some ethical SEO firms are gettingpaid to promote corporations that use sweatshop labor.It is important that you can trust your SEO, and you should know if they are doinganything that could get you punished. It is a fact, though, that the search enginesand SEO firms owe each other absolutely nothing when it comes to the organicsearch results.I recently became more aggressive, though I am still rather conservative incomparison to many SEO firms. It is a balancing act. On one project I mightcreate pure spam, and then on the next project I might be whiter than white. Usethe right tool for the right job.Link purchasing is an effective form of advertisement, just like buying a billboard.Quality, underpriced links are not going to be easy to find unless you think of theweb as a social network composed of people and ideas.If something seems like a thing you have never heard of before, or it cannot beeasily explained, then it should probably be questioned or explored further beforeparticipating in.If the idea shows search engines one thing and then shows the user something else,it is generally not a good practice unless it is via paid inclusion or is done by anextremely talented SEO with the risk profile explained to you in depth beforehand.Other ProblemsFlashOften people like to use Flash to show off their web design talents. Many peopleare overwhelmed by Flash content. Some dial-up visitors will not wait for yourFlash to load. Search has become such an effective advertising medium in largepart because of its simplicity.
265Make sure each page of your site starts with unique, page-relevant content, and islinked to from other pages on your site.One URL for Each Unique Content UnitAt the end of the day, search engines want as much useful valuable content as theycan index. Each additional useful document improves their relevancy, market-share, and allows them to sell more ad space.Some people use rotating URLs or create many pages using printer-friendlyversions and different versions based on size and color. If many of your pages arealmost exactly the same, or if the URLs that search engines index are usually deadwhen they go back to re-index them, there stands a good chance that searchengines will not want to index your site very well.Limit the options you offer search engines to the pages you actually want indexed.Disable CookiesSearch engines do not accept cookies. If your site gives cookies, try turningcookies off and see your site how some search engines see it. If, when cookies aredisabled, a session ID is placed in the URL to search spiders, it could causeindexing problems.Dynamic Site TipsTo get dynamic content spidered, I recommend doing the following:" Use two or less variables if possible. If you use many variables, youmay also want to try rewriting your URLs." Keep each product or category ID variable at or below ten digits." The variable id= is often associated with session IDs. Searchengines do not want to index multiple copies of the exact same contentand may avoid portions of your site if they think that a parameter is asession ID. Avoid using ID in your URL. Instead of using ID=345 orcatID=345, use prod=345 or cat-345 in the URL." If you are having indexing issues, your site is new and is not yetindexed, or you are doing a major infrastructure update, you may wantto rewrite your URLs using descriptive clean static looking URLs overugly variable filled URLs." Building a site map and linking to related pages can also help spidersfind your inner pages." If you do not have hundreds or thousands of inbound links into alarge, database-driven site, then only a small portion of your site islikely to get indexed." If you have pages of limited content value, you may want to preventsearch engines from indexing them to save that link equity for indexingmore important content.
266If you have a database-driven site with sensitive data, you may also want to changethe database error pages so it is harder for hackers to find their ways into yourdatabase.Content Management SystemsWhen debating what content management system to use, you may want to look tosee what various people say about how search engines index it. The following are afew common problems with many content management systems:" Many use the same content for the page title and heading tags. Bymaking these tags slightly different, you can rank for a broader set ofsearch terms while looking more like natural content rather thanoptimized focused content." Many content management systems have problems with URLs, sessionIDs, and cookies." Many content management systems do not allow you to add customfields for things like the meta description tag, and some place a singlemeta description tag on all pages. Just about anything that is added toa page that is not unique to that page lessens the likelihood people willfind it." Many content management systems are configured poorly so that thesite title and category paths are included in the page titles ahead of thepage-specific relevant content. You want the most relevant wordsdescribing each page at or near the beginning of your page title.URL RewritingIf you are using an Apache server, you can use mod rewrite to write yourfilenames and file paths as descriptive URLs. Microsoft servers also have customrewriting software solutions like ISAPI_Rewrite.Wrong Server Status or Server MisconfiguredIf you use a custom error script, make sure that the error page returns a 404 headercode. Also make sure your regular pages return a proper 200 series status code.Another rare error is a misconfigured server clock. If search engines do not think adocument has changed since they last visited it, then some of them will not spiderthe document again.Free HelpIf you are believe something is wrong with your site, there is a lot of free feedbackavailable at the SEO forums listed in the SEO Forums section of my site.Oftentimes you will get great free advice because the person giving it either likes tohelp people or realizes that it is great marketing to help people out.
267Speeding Things Up: Paid InclusionDisclaimers" I do not usually use paid inclusion. It may be worth the fee for helpingyou learn how to do SEO, but I think the fees are rarely justifiable." Yahoo! has been cracking down on low-quality content. If yoursite is less than 100% legit or does not have substantial originalcontent, I would not recommend using Yahoo!’s paid inclusionprogram. If you submit to their paid inclusion program and they rejectyou, they may remove your site from their search index.Paid Inclusion Benefits" The first benefit of paid inclusion is that you are guaranteed that yourpage will be in the index, even if your site would otherwise have issuesstopping it. You may not immediately list exceptionally well, but it willbe in the index." Paid inclusion programs also offer a rapid refresh rate, which is perfectif you have rotating stock." Paid inclusion gives you the chance to tweak your page to match thealgorithm and see the changes in the rankings within a couple days.This is invaluable if you are teaching yourself how to do SEO. It givesyou a rapid feedback loop that helps you learn and change quickly." Yahoo! Search weighs page content heavily in their algorithm. Yahoo!factors in links, but nowhere near as much as Google or Teoma do.Add a decent number of quality inbound links to a page ranking well inYahoo! Search, and it should list well in Google and other majorengines." Large sites and large partners may submit trusted feeds that are usuallya bit easier to tweak and optimize than changing page copy.Why I Don’t Use Paid InclusionI do not recommend buying many paid inclusion programs unless you haverotating stock that you need updated frequently, and struggle to get it indexed dueto corporate or site structure related issues.Yahoo! is the only major paid inclusion program with a decent amount of traffic.They charge recurring fees for each click, which does not work with many businessmodels.Yahoo! Site Submit ExpressHaving a web page included in the Search Submit Express paid inclusion programcosts $49/year plus a flat, category-based, cost per click of fifteen cents or thirtycents.
268Yahoo! Search’s InfoYahoo! Search has a rather large index. Typically, if you list well in Yahoo! andthen add a quality linking program, you should rank well in the other major searchengines that place more focus on quality links.One of the good things about Search Submit Express program is that if an editorreviews your site and thinks your content is valuable, then they may shift it over sothat they use that page as a seed page to get the rest of your site indexed.Additionally, Yahoo! offers free inclusion into the Site Match program to some501(c) tax-exempt organization websites.Most people spending money on paid inclusion programs would fair better tospend their money on building a more robust linking campaign.Other Paid Inclusion ProgramsInfoSpace has a paid inclusion program, but they do not get enough traffic tojustify the fee for most websites. If you build up sufficient link popularity, your sitemay get spidered by the major search engines frequently enough that there wouldbe no purpose to pay for InfoSpace paid inclusion.InfoSpace powers maybe a few percent of the overall search market. Google andYahoo! Search control the lion share of the market.Many other small search engines, such as Entireweb, offer paid inclusion, but ingeneral, I do not think they are money well-spent. I usually do not recommendpaying for inclusion in sites or search indexes that do not provide a spiderable,static, text link to your site (i.e., directory submission might have value, butpaying for general search engine submission probably does not).General and topical directories are important to list in, but you need to investigatethe area thoroughly before spending. Make sure they provide you with a chance toreceive direct targeted traffic or spiderable text links from pages listed in Googleand Yahoo! by checking “cache:www.whateverdirectory.com/mycategory.html”from Google and Yahoo!.If the page is not cached by the major search engines, or has not been cached inmany months, then the odds are good that the engines do not trust that page.Free Inclusion ProgramsThe best way to get indexed is through link building. In June of 2005, Googlecreated a free program called Google Sitemaps that is used to help their crawlerknow what pages are on your site. Google Sitemaps will tell you what Googlesearches send the most visitors to your site and if Googlebot is having any crawlingissue with your site.
269Numerous webmasters have also created free Google Sitemap generator programsthat make it easy to create your Google Sitemap.Keep in mind that even if you use programs like Google Sitemaps, you should useyour internal link structure and external link profile to help search engines indexyour content and understand what pages are most important.Other Search EnginesThere are thousands of search engines on the web, but only a few control most ofthe traffic. Generally speaking, if I did not mention a search engine in this e-book,I do not think of it as a primary concern for most search engine marketers.Smaller Foreign Search EnginesSome Asian search engines operate using different relevancy algorithms than theircurrent worldwide counterparts since many of the characters are run together.Recently, Yahoo! and Google have both invested in this space, and I would expectrapid shifts in relevancy in the next year.Most of the other large search engines (domestic or international) can easily befound by checking the latest Nielsen/NetRatings figures fromSearchEngineWatch.com.Search is generally dominated by Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Ask. In somesmaller markets, some local players are important. Scandinavia has some stronglocal players (although I do not know their names); Russia has Rambler Media andYandex; and China has Baidu.If you are unsure of what local engines are important just take a look at your serverlogs to see who is sending you traffic.Shopping Search EnginesI did not cover shopping search engines extensively, but they usually operatesimilarly to how pay-per-click search engines work. They accept product feeds andcharge you a set amount per click. Many of them collect consumer feedback onitems and merchants as well.Shopping search engines have a limited distribution compared to the larger searchengines, but many of them rank well in global search engines due to their siteauthority and heavy ad buying in programs like AdWords.The major shopping search engines are BizRate, DealTime (owns shopping.comand Epinions), Kelkoo (a European shopping search engine purchased by Yahoo!),Froogle (free inclusion, powerd by data from Google Base), Yahoo! Shopping,MSN Shopping, Price Grabber, and mySimon.
270Expect to see many new peer-to-peer, personal/social web recommendation siteslike ThisNext to emerge. Expect significant consolidation in this market. Googlehas actively been promoting their Google Base product and Yahoo! boughtKelkoo toward the end of 2003.SearchEngineWatch.com has more information about shopping search engines athttp://searchenginewatch.com/links/article.php/2156331.Local SearchLocal search has the potential to be a rather large market; North America YellowPages bring in 16 billion dollars per year, which is larger than the search ad market.Various businesses will tell you that is not a big deal, and other businesses will tellyou that it is the best thing since sliced bread. Typically, whoever is funding thereport determines the outcome.Local search is still somewhat underdeveloped. Google Local allows businesses tolist their local information for free and add coupons to Google Maps. Yahoo!Local allows sites to be listed for free and charges a sliding scale for premiumplacement based on category and location.If you have a local business, you may also want to look at some of the other localsearch properties such as CitySearch, SuperPages, and Switchboard.Ensure local engines have your correct street address and place the same addresson multiple pages of your site if you want to do well in local engines.A few SEM firms focus on helping local, small businesses market their sites in localsearch. I believe LocalLaunch and ReachLocal are the two most well-knowncompanies operating in this space.One thing worth noting before listing in local databases is that you need to ensureyou build up the authority of your core business domain if you want to rank foryour own brand. If your business is listed in many authoritative local search playersthey may outrank you for your own brand name, and you may be stuck payingsome of them for searches for your own brand.Invisible TabsA general search database can only provide a useful search service for a limitednumber of search queries. That is why so many vertical search engines exist. Theycan afford to buy leads from Google or Yahoo! and then funnel them through thesales cycle and sell them at a higher price to merchants.All of the major search engines are also looking to build out their vertical searchofferings. Sometimes at Google you will notice that above the search results theyhave links to news, press releases, local search, shopping search, stock quotes,phone numbers, weather, maps, books, Google Base, and other types of
271information. Other times they may provide links to vertical databases, such as blogsearch, at the bottom of search results.Google calls these areas OneBox. Danny Sullivan wrote a great article about thisconcept called Searching with Invisible Tabs that helps explain what this technologydoes. Essentially, if search engines know enough about you or your query toassume that a smaller, more specific database will provide better results than thegeneral database, they will make that selection for you and feature it in the searchresults. Search engines are also experimenting with technologies that try to answersome questions from within the search results page.Inline Suggest and Query RefinementSome search engines, such as Google, recommend related and more focusedrelevant searches in the search results for broad queries.When trying to compete in the SERPs, if the broadest queries seem out of reach,don’t forget to look at related searches that search engines may push peopletoward.New VerticalsWhen a vertical is new, search engines will desire content so much that they willunderprice or give away leads. Google or YouTube will store your videos free ofcharge. Yahoo!’s Terry Semel predicted that within a couple years, video willbecome as commonplace on the web as text is.Google BaseGoogle Base is a huge database of products, services, and information located athttp://base.google.com/Google Base is a free storage platform for information that is structured so that it iseasy for Google to understand. Google allows you to advertise Google Baselistings on Google AdWords. Eventually, the Google AdSense program will movefrom just displaying advertisements to displaying recommended content fromGoogle Base, Google Video, or products sold via Google Checkout, which Googlemay be able to get a cut on selling.Their goal is simply to create the most efficient recommending engine andmarketplace possible.Google Coop & Google Custom SearchGoogle allows individuals to create custom topic specific search engines. Usingthis, hosing video content, offering Google Base, having the most efficient adnetwork, and having the largest search market-share allows Google to tap verticalsearch from many different angles.
272Google Coop may also be useful in helping Google learn what types of queriescertain sites are good at answering, and which types of queries those sites are bad atanswering. It also provides Google an additional layer of feedback on how relevanttheir core search results are for specific queries and verticals.More Eggs in More Baskets!For the time being, general search is exceptionally important, but as time passes,these niche databases will be used more frequently.What is to prevent Flickr from adding a commerce capability and becoming the #1photo shopping destination?If you have a local business, it is probably worth the time to submit your businessdetails to local search engines. If you sell a wide variety of products, it is probablyworth your time to submit a free feed to Google Base.Creating and positioning a site that is able to be listed in some of the verticaldatabases (like Google News for example) gives your business an unfair advantageover other businesses that are not.Search engines vying for buzz and market share will tap the vertical databases usingincreasingly aggressive and creative techniques. The line between vertical searchand global search will only blend more as time passes.Interactive ElementsWebsitesAdd your site to Google Local (http://www.google.com/local/add/)Add your site to Yahoo! Local (http://listings.local.yahoo.com/)Black Hat SEO (http://www.blackhatseo.com)CitySearch (http://www.citysearch.com/)Excite (paid inclusion)(https://secure.ah-ha.com/guaranteed_inclusion/teaser.aspx?network=ah- ha)Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/)Google Base (http://base.google.com/)Google Coop (http://www.google.com/coop/)Google Local (http://local.google.com/)Google Sitemaps (https://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps)Google Video (http://video.google.com/)
273Local Launch (http://www.locallaunch.com/)Lycos InSite: paid inclusion—not recommended to most webmasters(http://insite.lycos.com/inclusion/searchenginesubmit.asp)SEO Forums article(http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/seo-forums.htm)Reach Local (http://www.reachlocal.com/)Search Engine Watch search engine ratings and reviews(http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/index.php)Searching with Invisible Tabs(http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3115131)Shopping Search Engines(http://searchenginewatch.com/links/article.php/2156331)SuperPages (http://www.superpages.com/)Switchboard (http://www.switchboard.com/)Yahoo! Local (http://local.yahoo.com/)Yahoo! Search Submit Express (paid inclusion program)(http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/srchsb/sse.php)YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/)SoftwareFantomaster: industrial strength cloaking(http://www.fantomaster.com)ISAPI rewrite software: URL rewrite software from Microsoft servers(http://www.isapirewrite.com/)Mod Rewrite: URL rewrite instructions for Apache servers(http://httpd.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html)
274Pay-Per-ClickPay-per-click (PPC) search engines can give you instant traffic and allow you to testnew business models in real time. However, the pay-per-click market iscompetitive. It is worth spending an extensive period of time learning how to writeand target ads, tracking your competitors, and doing deep keyword research beforejumping in.Before You StartMetrics-Based MarketingPPC search engines provide a highly trackable marketing medium. Frequently,people begin marketing without any idea as to the approximate value of a click. Ifyou do not set up a value range and track the results, you have no way todistinguish good marketing from bad marketing.To know the value of a click, you need to decide what the goal of your marketingis. If you are just branding, then you should expect to lose money to gainmindshare or reinforce your brand, and tracking may not be as important a goal. Ifyou are using pay-per-click search engines for direct product marketing, you needto know how much each click is worth.Typical Conversion RatesLead generation sites typically have a conversion rate around 10% to 12%, but cango as high as 30%+ if they are properly targeted and exceptionally appealing tovisitors.Since little investment is needed to arrive at your website, and many other sites arejust a click away, selling stuff on the web has a conversion rate similar to direct mailadvertising. High ticket items have a lower conversion rate and unique, cheapitems tend to have higher conversion rates. Many stores find typical conversionrates might be anywhere from .3 to 5%.Doing the MathChapter10
275There are many factors that go into click price. It is somewhat hard to measurebranding, but ad distribution can help with that. Most other things are tangible.If you know your average order size, profit per order, and estimated conversionrate, you can get a good idea what clicks are worth. Some people also factor inlifetime value of a customer, but that is harder to measure, and there is still enoughopportunity in many markets to do your math primarily based on direct return.Before You StartIt is a good idea to look at the various ads that are displayed and in which orderover time. The top guy might be an idiot losing tons of money or a person who ispaying an extreme premium for branding.If ads from affiliate marketers or smaller sites are ranking around the same adposition over the course of a few weeks to a month, then they are probably doingsomething right (generating profits). It is worth it to take a couple weeks to dodeep keyword research and market analysis before jumping into pay-per-clicksearch engine marketing.You Will Lose MoneyMost clicks end up being failures. Even if you have a 30% conversion rate, thatmeans that seven out of ten clicks did nothing for you. When you dip your toesinto the pay-per-click market, there stands a good chance you will lose moneybefore you start making money. There are several reasons for this:1) You need to learn how the systems work." Learn what terms are important and what ones are not" Learn how to target the ads" Learn how to write the ad copy" Learn how to bid, where to rank, and what terms are overpriced2) You are competing against the best accounts." Some competing advertisers may have other intangible assets that givethem an unfair advantage." If you are brand new, your competitors have more experience than youdo." Some ad campaigns have been fine tuned for months (or years)." Search engines are building trust factors into ad accounts. Someadvertisers may get quality boosts and cheaper ads just for being long-term advertisers.Search engines try to sell the concept of pay-per-click marketing saying that it is sotargeted that everyone makes money, but in the real world, that is not how things
276work. Some markets are competitive and will require learning, sound strategy, andtracking to generate profits.Why Pay-Per-Click is ImportantI was working to raise the rankings of one client for a few competitive phrases. Itwas taking a decent investment in time and money. I then started a pay-per-clickcampaign to test numerous terms. As it turns out, the conversion rate for thewords we thought we needed were not great. There were a couple other termswith lower search frequency and less competition that converted exceptionally well.Had we not done pay-per-click marketing, we may have never properly focusedour SEO efforts. In less than a month, on about $300, we increased theproductivity of the site tenfold.The only way to be certain of anything in marketing is to test it. Pay-per-clickmarketing allows you to test in real time with the fastest feedback loop of anymarketing medium in the world.What is Pay-Per-Click?In 1998, Overture pioneered the idea of selling search ads. You could buy searchresults for as low as a penny or two per click. This system has quickly evolved intoone of the worlds most competitive marketplaces.Why Use Pay-Per-Click?Sometime you cannot afford to—or simply do not want to—wait. Pay-per-clicksearch engines allow you to be listed at the top of search results quickly. This willallow you to do the following:" Prototype ideas to track demand before you invest into a new businessmodel or are stuck footing the bill for a new site." Quickly gather feedback on market conditions." Split test a live audience and gather results in real time.You can use Google AdWords to offer a free white paper about a topic from aone-page website. If nobody is interested in downloading your white paper, or youcannot seem to get enough click-throughs, then that could indicate one or severalthings:" The market is not yet ready for your product." You are marketing it from the wrong angle." You are marketing it to the wrong people.Whom Should I Trust in Pay-Per-Click?
277There are a few major players in the pay-per-click arena. Yahoo! Search Marketingcurrently has network partnerships that span Yahoo, InfoSpace, AltaVista,AllTheWeb, and many other partners. Google AdWords has a larger distributionnetwork across Google, AOL, About, Earthlink, and many others sites (even a fewof my own). Microsoft is a new player in the market, but their limited syndicationnetwork means their traffic quality is high.For the sake of this book, I am only going to cover Google AdWords, Yahoo!Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter.Amazon.com allows you to advertise contextual ads on their site via ClickRiver.There are also a few other pay-per-click search engines (Ask, Business.com, Miva,Kanoodle, Enhance Interactive, 7Search, Findology, Search123, ePilot) that may bewell worth a look after trying Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. When beginning pay-per-click advertising, I would recommend only using Google AdWords, Yahoo!Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter.Why Use Large Pay-Per-Click Search Engines?" The results will be scaleable." The feedback will be quicker." They offer many great tracking and targeting features free." Larger pay-per-click search engines generally present higher qualitytraffic and are less susceptible to fraud." It is less complex managing two or three accounts versus 100 accounts." It’s easier to track the ROI on two accounts than on 100 accounts." Many of the extremely small search engines never have real traffic.You are wasting your time registering with them." Even some of the better second tier search engines may waste a bighunk of change. In early November 2004, I tried using LookSmart. Itsent me twice the traffic as Yahoo! Search Marketing , but traffic fromLookSmart had a 95% bounce rate. That means that 19 of 20 sitevisitors from LookSmart immediately left, and I paid for garbagetraffic.The quality of traffic from smaller engines will vary from term to term, but its bestto go with the biggest guys off the start, and then, if you have spare time, try someof the smaller engines.Case Study: The Ignorant BidderIf a term does not convert well for you, then it may not be worth it to rank near thetop for that term.Not too long ago, a person was bidding on an eBay ad for SEO Book at over $1 aclick. Assuming I can get a 1.5% conversion rate, I can afford to pay that much,but this person was just throwing away their money.When you use large pay-per-click search engines,you guarantee that you aregetting at least some goodtraffic and that yourbusiness model is scalable.Smaller engines provideslower feedback loops andsome may not evenprovide quality traffic.
278Just to test the waters, I placed my e-book on eBay, and it did not go for anywherenear what I usually sell them for.I find it hard to believe the person who was bidding a dollar a click was making anymoney. They later lowered that bid to 21 cents. In some markets, there will bedumb companies that rotate in, lose money, and then go bankrupt. By the timethey go bankrupt, others may soon take their money-wasting market position.Some terms are not worth buying at the price the keywords go for. And if they arevaluable, they may have more value at a lower position.Landing Page TipsConversion is a way to measure how successful a pay-per-click campaign is.The following are a few tips to improve landing pages:" Remove navigation. Unless it is necessary, remove other options.Let people do what you want them to do, and don’t give them manyother choices." Make link text appealing. People tend to glance over copy insteadof deeply reading every word. Since links are action points, peopletend to pay more attention to link text. Make sure link text isappealing since it is far more likely to get read than most of the pagecopy." Use pictures of people. People like to look at other people.Testimonials appear more legitimate if they have pictures next to them." Give visitors a clue they have found the correct page. Place thewords they searched for in large text at the top of the page to showthem they are in the right location. If you are a large merchant withmany products, maybe use something like “search results for: <theirsearch term>. Typically, it is best to point people at a landing pageinstead of the home page." Other ideas. Some of the other concepts listed throughout this e-book (such as using short paragraphs and concise subheaders) alsoapply to landing pages. Corey Rudl constantly retested his landingpages. You can learn a good amount by seeing how he changed hislanding pages over time, by looking in Archive.org. MarketingSherpaalso has a landing page handbook for sale.Yahoo! Search Marketing
279How Does Yahoo! Search Marketing Work?Yahoo! Search Marketing, formerly named Overture., is a large pay-per-click searchprovider. You write ads for your website, and they appear in the search results andcontent sites with ads delivered by YSM. Before the end of 2006, most keywordswere editorially reviewed prior to appearing in search results, but with the launch ofYSMs long-awaited Panama platform, most keywords are automatically approvedand running within a couple minutes.YSM StemmingYSM also truncates search terms for ad targeting, so book and books are treated asthough they are the same keyword phrase.YSM Advanced vs. Standard MatchYSM typically places standard match listings above advanced match listings if theadvanced match listings are not as close of a match as the standard match. Thismeans that if you bid on the exact term that someone is searching for, you will rankabove ads that are matched via broader matching options.If you bid ten cents for best seo book and someone else bids 25 cents for seo booksyour best seo book ad will show above theirs if someone is searching for best seo book.At the end of 2006, Yahoo! aimed to make their platform less transparent, so howthey mix matching types may change over time.YSM Bid Prices vs. Click CostsWith YSM, you pick a maximum bid price and your bid will never exceed thatamount. Their software has a bid discounter built in, so oftentimes your averagebid cost may be less than your bid prices.Prior to the end of 2006, YSM bid prices were transparent, which means that youcould usually see exactly what your competitors were bidding at any given time.With the launch of the Panama platform, Yahoo! no longer shows exact bid pricesbut bid ranges, estimated clicks, and estimated share of clicks.
280Please note that their estimates are just estimates, and that by adjusting your adcopy relevancy and appeal you can drastically alter your click costs and trafficvolumes." If you use appealing ad copy, an ad at position number 2 or 3 may getmore clicks than an ad at position number 1." Relevant ads that get clicked often are given a higher quality score.Ads with a higher quality score are given a discount for their relevancy,since search engines make more when searchers click on more ads.Bid JammingOnce the new Panama system is live, bid jamming may no longer be possible, butthis explains how the process worked.In some niche markets, there will only be a couple people who place exceptionalvalue on ultra-qualified leads. For example, a Chicago DUI attorney may bid muchhigher for the term Chicago DUI attorney than a general nationwide firm would. Ifthere are only a couple competitors in a market, it is not uncommon for the topfew bids to be $5 or $10 while the rest of them are around 25 cents or less.For example, if they bid $10, you can bid a max bid of $9.99. If the third placedperson is only bidding 25 cents, your clicks will cost you 26 cents each whileensuring your competitor pays a full $10 per click.Of course you want to monitor your accounts closely if you are using aggressivebidding techniques or are bid jamming people. Some competitors will be stupidand let you take their lunch money. Others may be smart and readjust their bids tobid jam you. Some will go so far as to engage in click fraud, so you need to watchyour account closely if you are bidding aggressively in competitive markets.By default, ads are widely matched and syndicated to the content network, so if youbid high on the search network, make sure you check the content network ads and
281bid lower on those. It doesn’t take too many $10 content clicks to come in to makefor a bad day.YSM ProgramsYSM has a $5 startup fee that is converted to click credit, and it has no monthlyminimum to spend. They also have a FastTrack program where their accountrepresentatives will set up your account for a one time $199 fee. I recommendtaking the time to set up your own account. You know your products better andare more interested in your own success than some random YSM editor is; they aremore interesting in ensuring that you spend as much as possible.YSM offers a local product called Local Match that allows you to target your adsfrom a .5 to 100 mile radius of your business location. The Local Match productrequires that you have a business with a physical address, but it does not require awebsite. These ads give driving directions to your place of business. Local Matchads show up in the same location where other YSM ads appear.YSM also offers a paid inclusion program by the name of Search Submit Express(SSE). I generally consider this a waste of money for most websites. SearchSubmit Express gives your sites 48-hour refresh throughout the Yahoo! poweredsearch products. SSE has a one time $49 review fee and also has an incrementalcost-per-click.SSE is good for sites that meet certain conditions:" They change rapidly" They are having dynamic indexing problems" They need indexing quickly;" They need the associated tracking offered by Search Submit ExpressFree Yahoo! Search Marketing ToolsYahoo! offers a suite of tools to help their advertisers set up their accounts." SEO Book Keyword Research Tool. This tool cross references theYahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool, all the Google keyword researchtools, and many other keyword tools(http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword/)." Yahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool. This shows the frequency ofsearches across the YSM network for the prior month(http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/)." Yahoo! View Bid Tool: shows the highest bidders for a specificsearch term. Please note that this tool will be shut down in Decemberof 2006.(http://uv.bidtool.overture.com/d/search/tools/bidtool/?Keywords=casino&mkt=us&lang=en_US).
282" Yahoo! Advertiser Workbook. This is a free downloadable e-bookreleased by Yahoo! to help you get the most out of your YSMcampaign (http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/rc/srch/eworkbook.pdf)." Yahoo! Panama Preview. This video previews the new Panamaplatform (http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/rc/srch/tu_htnya.php).YSM Search Term Suggestion Tool ErrorsYSM truncates their search terms. While the plural and singular versions of searchterms will greatly differ in search volume, YSM just lumps them together.Please note that the Yahoo! search term suggestion tool tends to run high on highlycommercial search terms since many automated bots and bid managers scourthrough their partner network.Here is an example keyword research search for SEO:WordTracker tracks click data from the meta search engines, Dogpile andWebCrawler. Since WordTracker makes their money by selling data versus clicks,you can usually expect more legitimate traffic measurements using WordTracker.Digital Point created a free keyword suggestion tool that compares both trafficestimates.KeywordDiscovery.com and GoodKeywords.com are two useful keywordresearch resources, as well.When doing pay-per-click advertising, deep keyword research is a fundamental partof most successful campaigns. Many of the keyword research tools are top-heavy(only showing the most common terms), but Yahoo! and Google both have
283enough traffic to give deep keyword research results. WordTracker has a few coolfeatures called lateral search and thesaurus that help you find similar keywords. I havetested many of the keyword research tools, and WordTracker is the only traditionalkeyword research tool I feel is worth an ongoing subscription.Another option for finding deep keyword data is to run a broad-matched GoogleAdWords ad (AdWords and matching options are discussed later in this chapter),and mine keyword data from the referral strings. Make sure you watch yourbudget closely and use negative terms to filter unwanted traffic if you use thistechnique.Ad Optimization, Tracking URLs, & Conversion Tracking:Many pay per click providers offer services that at a glance seem as though they arevaluable, but they may end up costing you to use them in the long run.Something as simple as tracking URLs seems useful, but if you use the built inconversion tracking software you may be cause for your own ad prices increasing.The internal Yahoo! ad optimization tool optimizes your ads for clickthrough rate(and thus Yahoo! ad relevancy and earnings). When you optimize for searchengine earnings, that optimization may be at your own expense.Ad Syndication & the Trusted Feed:Many pay per click search engines syndicate their ads out to other search enginesand contextual ad networks. Yahoo! has two syndication types, search and contentmatch. Content match ads place your ads on content websites. Search ads placeyour ads on search sites, and sites that obtained a trusted feed from Yahoo!.If you are in an expensive niche, it is important to track your click sources and clickquality, because many search arbitrage players will target your keywords and yourindustry. You can’t opt out of trusted partner keyword feeds without opting out ofYahoo! Search, but in some cases that means you have to opt out of Yahoo!altogether if you are concerned about your ROI.The Keys to Doing Well on Yahoo! Search MarketingEnsure you target your keywords properly and do not get in bidding wars. Do notbid high prices for exceptionally broad or generic phrases.Your standard match listings will still compete against advanced match listings, butif you make a list of targeted phrases then you will not likely pay for as manyuntargeted clicks as a person bidding for more generic phrases. If you usesomewhat generic phrases you will want to make sure you use negative words toblock terms you are not interested in.A few good examples of common negative terms to block are “cracks” and “free.”People looking for free stuff are typically poor leads for most businesses.
284Keyword Tip: Spammed Out Guestbooks. Some guestbooks that have beenspammed by aggressive competitors may help you find many keyword variations.Keyword tools may help you find about 500 keywords, but the guestbookssometimes may yield over 5,000.There are a variety of free tools that will help you create keywords based ondifferent keyword groupings. Using permutation generation tools will allow you toquickly create hundreds or thousands of relevant exact-match terms. I have a free,web-based, keyword list generator to use to make up my extended keyword listsafter I have already done primary keyword research. Microsoft Excel also has asimilar feature.Some of YSMspartners cut the ad text short, so you will want to include your mostimportant words near the beginning of the ad title and ad description.YSM now factors click-through rate and keyword relevancy into click cost. A highclick-through rate may lower click costs substantially, but make sure your ad copyand keyword selection still pre-qualify searchers. Write ads for conversions insteadof just clicks. If you are trying to sell bulk stuff at wholesale, do not be afraid to usethe word wholesale in the title and place prices in the ad text.PPC versus SEO in Small Paid NichesThe more expensive the associated PPC ads are, the more value there is inperforming SEO on a site in a paid niche. If the average cost-per-click is $5, then a$1,000 SEO campaign pays for itself after only a few hundred targeted visitors.YSM tends to be a bit sloppier than Google at monetizing niche advertisements.Google has a larger advertiser base and props up the ad costs using something theycall quality based minimum bids.If you are unsure whether an SEO campaign would justify its fees, you can run atest PPC account to see what type of demand there is in your target market.Ad Writing TipsThere are many subtle hints to doing pay-per-click advertising correctly. A smallchange in conversion rate can make a huge difference once scaled out across theentire web. A marginal loss that turns into a marginal profit can become anautomated revenue stream if you write and target your ads to convert better.English-to-English ConversionI went to the U.K. and realized just how different the versions of English arearound the world. If you are targeting a specific region or country, make sure yourads and website make sense to locals using words and phrases that make sense intheir dialect.
285Use Specific Words!Choosing a keyword for pay-per-click ads is similar to choosing a keyword forsearch engine optimization. You do not want generic terms. Frequently, single-word terms bring so many competitor clicks, compulsive clicks, untargetedprospects, and fraudulent clicks that it is hard to justify buying them. Single wordsare usually poorly targeted AND more expensive. If you get into bidding warsover general terms, you are playing the game all wrong. Actually, the game isplaying you.Do Not Follow the CrowdBid prices may not be justified where they are. Many times people feel they needto have certain terms. Without tracking them, these people lose money and do notknow why they are losing.Sometimes people chase a few core terms that give them an inflated artificial value.If you try to do exactly what the other ads are doing, you may fail. In manymarkets, the top-listed ad is losing money on each and every click.When Following the CrowdThere are numerous tools that will show you some of the terms on whichcompeting sites are bidding. KeyCompete.com allows you to access a list of manyof a competitor’s ads for as little as $5, and SpyFu currently offers free trials.Just because a competitor bids on a term does not mean that there is traffic or thatthe term is commercially viable. However, competitors can help give you manykeyword and content ideas.Use Creativity to Lower Cost and Increase ConversionRatesKeyword SelectionThink creatively. Try to imagine what your customers may type into the searchengine to find what you are selling. You may even want to bid on terms that existin a question format. Think of your target audience. Maybe these terms areproblems that people have. Perhaps these people do not even know your productexists.Writing HeadlinesSome of the most competitive ads in the world are magazine covers in a checkoutaisle. You may want to glance through a few magazines covers and tables ofcontents to find ways to write headlines and ads that pull sales.Place Keywords in Your Ads
286Many search engines highlight the words in ads that match the users query.Placing the search term in the ad will help your ad stick out more and improve yourclick-through rate.Bid on Current Events & Buzz WordsMy cheapest and highest converting ads are frequently ads for industry buzz wordsthat nobody else bids on. The phrase Nigritude Ultramarine (a made-up phrase froman SEO competition) has sold multiple copies of this e-book. In addition, it hasintroduced hundreds of visitors to my site at eight cents per click.If you are the first person to bid on a popular topic, you can get many under-pricedleads.Start with a VerbYou may be able to significantly increase your click-through rate if you start yourad copy with a powerful active verb.Additional Conversion TipsTrying to rank #1 may cause bidding wars with ego bidders. Listing a bit lowermay improve the return on investment since you have fewer compulsive clickersand a lower bid price. In addition, as people scroll down the ad list, they do abetter job of showing intent. They pre-qualify themselves for the purchase.If you make the ads sound compelling to the reader, you can improve your click-through rate to where you get more conversions than the #1 ad. Show benefits oroffer a unique solution to their problems.Link to a Landing PageLink to the exact page you want visitors to see, not to your home page. You mayeven consider adding a special page to your site that is made exclusively for thatpay-per-click program.By channeling all your traffic through the home page, you may be telling a personthat you do not care about them, and you make it harder for them to buy. In anefficient market the merchants who remove the most friction will be the ones withprofit margins and sustainable business models.Exact vs. Broad MatchingMany search engines use different matching levels to filter ad targeting.“Exact match” will only show for search results where the user searchedspecifically for your keyword phrase and only your keyword phrase.
287“Phrase match” will show when your exact phrase appears anywhere within thesearch query with the words in the same order.Google and Yahoo! may show broad match ads when people search for synonymsof your keywords or if your broad match keywords appear in the search in anyorder your ads will display.If you are new to pay-per-click, you may want to use exact match and phrase matchuntil you get a feel for it, unless you are using broad match for keyword mining.Misspelled WordsSpelling errors are sometimes corrected for by the search matching software, butsometimes they are not. Bidding on keywords run together, words with missedkeys, and other spelling errors can help generate many cheap keyword variations.This free tool at http://tools.seobook.com/spelling/keywords-typos.cgi makesgenerating a list of misspelled terms quick and easy.Make sure you do not place the misspellings in your ad copy, as search engines donot want misspelled ads. It is usually best to put misspelled words in their own adcampaign separate from your other ad campaigns.Search & the Buying CycleMany people perform multiple searches prior to purchase. Typically early searchestend to search for generic phrases, and as people get closer to determining whatthey want to buy, they search for brand names (or brand name + product) morefrequently.It may be harder to determine the ROI on the more generic terms than on well-branded terms as the branded clicks typically fall closer to the purchase date.Editing AdsMany search engines will display ads before they have had editorial approval. Ifyou consistently break their rules, they may no longer want to do business withyou, but sometimes it makes sense to test where the limits are.Knowing that Google shows some ads before they are reviewed by humans meansthat Friday evening would be a good time to run aggressive ads since they might bedisplayed all weekend before they are reviewed.Once Yahoo! has accepted a keyword, you can try to rewrite new ad copy that is abit more aggressive. If they do not accept your new ad copy, your old listing withyour old ad copy should typically still remain.
288Customer Tracking and Bid ManagementHow Tracking WorksIf you are paying by the click, you need to know what those clicks are doing. Fromthe second they click until they leave or purchase.If your server is already equipped with great tracking software, it is easy to add atracking tag on the back of your ads. Instead of your Yahoo! listing going tohttp://www.domain.com/salespage.html, have it go tohttp://www.domain.com/salespage.html?source=y+ad=6+keyword=fred.Tracking SoftwareMy favorite log file analyzer is ClickTracks. It displays the web page in a viewablebrowser highlighting the click ratio for each of the links. ClickTracks also allowsyou to set up custom tracking tags to view traffic through different visitor paths.While the software is expensive to some at $500, it is a steal for some largercommercial websites. ClickTracks also offers a hosted tracking solution.Some other popular conversion tracking software options are Keyword Max,IndexTools, and WebSideStory. If you are working with an exceptionally largeaccount, you may also want to try Efficient Frontier or Omniture.ConversionRuler is inexpensive, suitable software if you are primarily concernedwith tracking pay-per-click results. ConversionRuler starts out around $20 amonth. Yahoo! and Google also provide built-in conversion tracking software forfree.There are also free tracking services such as eXTReMe Tracking and SiteMeter ifyou want to access referrer stats easily, but I would not recommend using them fortracking any of your pay-per-click statistics.If you are a heavy spender on pay-per-click, you will most likely want to use bidmanagement software.Google AnalyticsGoogle also created a free, cross-platform conversion tracking tool that comes withtheir AdWords product. It works for tracking e-mail ads, banner ads, and variousPPC search engine ads.On top of the free, built-in tracking feature, Google also bought Urchin and re-branded it as Google Analytics. Google Analytics is free, and perhaps as full-featured as the most premium conversion tracking tool, but if you use it, you aresending your valuable market data back to your source of traffic. That may workagainst you if they use your best converting terms and most frequent referrals torecommend keywords to your competitors. If you were Google and you sold
289traffic to multiple competitors, would you recommend my best words to mycompetitors?Bid Management SoftwareThere are automated software programs that will track your bids and change themmultiple times a day so that you achieve optimal efficiency with your ads. Theseprograms can do various things, such as list your site relative to another website,bid to a maximum lead cost, or other similar functions. However, some of themajor search providers are rendering some of these features useless, either throughreplicating them or by obfuscating data. For example, if a search engine does notsay what the bid prices are, you can’t bid jam competitors, and Google AdWordsallows advertisers to schedule ad delivery time and bid to position.The best part of bid management software is that good bid management softwarecan allow you to dynamically change the bid price from price-per-click to othermetrics such cost-per-action or ROI.If you get big into pay-per-click search engines and are managing multipleaccounts, it is worth using a bid management program to help save time andmoney. Currently, three market leaders in this field are BidRank (downloadablesoftware), Keyword Max (hosted software application), and Atlas OnePoint(hosted software application).Fraud Prevention SoftwareMost major pay-per-click search engines have fraud protection built into theirsystem to protect the value of click prices. Google, for example, will allow you tosee how many invalid clicks you had within the AdWords platform.You should use your server logs to validate clicks if you are running a largecampaign. Generally due to time overlaps and differences in reporting, it isconsidered acceptable to have an error up to 10%. If your error is much largerthan that, be sure to notify the search engine.If you have a good log file analyzer and understand how to use it, then you have noneed for a fraud prevention tool, but these tools make it quick and easy to spotpotential fraud.If you believe your competitors are clicking your ads or you are investing heavily ina competitive market, you will want to take a look at additional fraud protection.Two of the current leaders in the PPC fraud prevention software market areWho’sClickingWho and Keyword Max Click Auditor. VeriClix is a similar, butfree, product. Other analytics companies, such as ClickTracks, have also beengetting into the click fraud monitoring market.Even if a competitor only clicks on your ads every few days, it still adds up overtime. This software allows you to accumulate the evidence you need to reverse
290charges and potentially file a lawsuit, but you need to have a large enough spend tojustify its cost, unless you are just doing it for publicity.Earning (and Buying) TrustHidden BidsGoogle has never offered an entirely open ad service. Yahoo! used to be moreopen, but as time passed they have become more closed off. If the advertisers donot know exactly how much they need to pay or who they are bidding against, andpublishers do not know exactly what they are getting paid for, it is easier for searchengines to adjust how much they are charging advertisers or paying publishers formatching them and removing market friction.Noise is RelativeWhen Google AdWords was new, they heavily relied upon affiliates to matchmerchants with market opportunities. As more merchants have becomeaccustomed to using AdWords, Google has got better at filtering duplicate offersand other affiliate noise out of their ads.In an ideal market, Google would prefer to deliver leads directly to the merchants.Affiliates who largely built Google into its current market position may beconsidered little more than noise by Google in many markets today.New FiltersAs markets evolve, the types of noise (affiliate, arbitrage, double dipping ads,dictionary attacks, deceptive ads, etc.) change and search engines must come upwith new ways to protect the relevancy of their ads.Google has blocked some forms of ads using a mixture of sophisticated algorithmsand editorial guidelines, but they have also began to look at ways of pricing noiseout of the market by discounting ads for trusted sources and charging newadvertisers, unproven advertisers, or abusive advertisers premiums to be displayed.Buying Trust Over TimeIn much the same way that old domains may be trusted more in organic searchresults as they age and gain links, Google may trust proven advertisers more, andgive them a discount for the trust they have built up.Just by having an AdWords account, spending money, and not being abusive, yourad account gains some level of trust.Free Market Feedback
291Google keeps collecting more and more market data using a wide array of datapoints along the supply chain. They can see relative changes in a host of areas:" Brand awareness and search volumes and trends" News trends and content production trends" Number of advertisers, types of advertisers, bid prices and trends" User acceptance via conversion data and their toolbar" General trust based on the link graph and surfing trends via theirtoolbar" Keyword relationships (based on AdWords accounts and text analysisof web content)" Conversion data (via Google Analytics, Google AdWords ConversionTracker, and Google Website Optimizer)" Conversion data via Google CheckoutEach of these tools layered on top of one another add to how much value Googlecan extract by making their ad platform more relevant and more efficient. Thetools that Google offer cost them next to nothing in regards to the value they helpGoogle create by offering Google a clearer picture of the market.Deception as a FilterGoogle keeps collecting more and more market data using a wide array of datapoints.Google calls the price offsets as something related to a quality score, but may evenbe offering a bit of misdirection in what they consider of high quality. They largelystate that quality is based on relevancy and mention things like conversion rate andclickthrough rate, but how hard would it be for them to mix in usage data, linkreputation, or other signs of trust into their quality algorithm?If marketers are chasing the wrong data points it is going to be hard for us tomanipulate Google’s market.Hidden MessageGoogle is even using their quality-based minimum bids on syndicated contextualads, aiming to pull noise out of their distributed ad network.Google’s hidden message is that they want to police the web, and they invariablyare pushing to marginalize the profits of anyone who is making a good livingwithout creating much real tangible value.If the other PPC players are going to be able to compete with Google they aregoing to have to do it on margins, ad price, and relevancy. Filtering out noise andkeeping their ads as relevant as possible is going to be crucial for people to keeppaying attention to their ads.
292Google AdWordsGoogle AdWords gets its own extremely long section because it is exceptionallymore complicated and feature-rich than other PPC systems, largely because Googlehas been more innovative than competitors, and largely because Google wants tobe the worldwide advertising platform. Consider the following:" To get a lead in video distribution, Google bought YouTube for $1.65billion in stock." Google will unveil audio ads before the end of 2006." Google has tried to sell ads in newspapers and magazines.Google vs. Yahoo!Google AdWords and Yahoo! are in a battle for search distribution. One of thetwo PPC services is distributed on nearly every major search engine or portal.Google Bid Prices vs. Click Costs:With Google you pick a maximum bid price and your click cost will never exceedthat. Like all other major PPC providers, their software has a bid discounter builtin, so your average bid cost will be less than your bid prices.Google bid prices are not transparent so your competitors have no way to be sureexactly what your ads are costing (due to factoring in click-through rates intoeffective bid price – which I will explain later).A Few Things You Can Do With AdWords:Google AdWords is an advertising medium like no other:" There is only a $5 signup fee (which is converted into bid credits)." You can have ads across Google’s network of sites, with some adsappearing in less than 10 minutes." Google’s broad match technology allows you to receive extremely broaddistribution while keeping it quick, easy, and simple to use. Yahoo! andMicrosoft now do this too." Google’s vast distribution network makes it possible to test a businessmodel without fully investing into the creation of that business.The best way lower clickcost is to create ads with ahigh click-through rate.You should use the searchwords in the copy andmake sure the ads are well-targeted.If your product is onlyrelevant to a smallpercentage of searchers,then focus your ad copyon conversions instead ofjust click-through rate.
293" Google AdWords syndication allows you to reach AOL users, othersearchers, and Google’s vast content network." Google offers Geotargeting, so you can target your ad to a country, state,metro area, zip code, or geographic radius of your choice. Google allowsyou to preview local ad delivery using their local ad preview tool." You can run multiple ads for the same words and test them against eachother or send them to different pages to A/B split test your site or ad copy." Google allows you to use a free multivariant testing software programcalled Google Website Optimizer to test landing page conversion potential.The Importance of a High Click-Through RateGoogle lets searchers determine the relevancy of the ads. Price for GoogleAdWords is a function of click cost * click-through rate (and, in some cases, acouple other mystery meat variables). I believe Google uses the average click-through rate from the 1,000 most recent ads in this calculation, though for somemarkets with low search volumes they may use other quality indicators, like CTRfor an ad group. This means that if you know how to get a high click-through rate,you can dominate Google AdWords by serving up ads at a far cheaper rate thanwhat your competitors are paying.The following table gives examples of how the Google system calculates bid pricesand ad positions. Observe how some low priced ads appear above high priced adsbecause they are more relevant. Also observe that actual click cost sometimesvaries widely when compared to max bid price. Some clicks are at times expensiveand at other times they are cheap. It is the average click cost that matters, sincethat is what you are paying. Max bid does not matter since sometimes it can widelydepart from actual click price. For example, I have seen a $6.00 max bid that hadclicks go for 77 cents.Ad Number Max Bid CTR(relevancy)Effective Bid Ad Position Actual ClickCost1 0.40 5% $2.00 4 $0.402 0.26 10% $2.60 2 $0.263 1.00 2.53% $2.53 3 $0.814 1.50 2% $3.00 1 $1.31Distribution buys further distribution. Off the start, you will want to overbidslightly as you will be competing against the best ads that have developed over timein your niche.The bid prices Google suggests are often somewhat high. I usually cut thesuggested bid price by 20-50% when I first start an account, then monitor it closelyand change it to try to maintain decent ad position and ROI.
294Quality-Based Minimum BidsIn the past, Google had a five cent minimum bid price and only allowed ads todisplay if their Google click-through rate was above 0.5%, but in August of 2005,they shifted to quality-based minimum pricing.This means that if your ad is deemed exceptionally relevant, you can get clicks foras low as one cent, depending on how competitors are bidding. If your ads are notexceptionally relevant, you will have to pay a higher minimum bid to make up forthe lack of ad relevancy.Google has been making their ad system more blackbox-like. They stated theymay include landing page quality in their ad relevancy scores. In other words, wecan’t know exactly how it works, but they will create a system that optimizes formaximum internal revenue, while delivering value to trusted advertisers, andovercharging irrelevant or noisy advertisers. If they are vague about their exactranking criteria, it will be harder for people to game the flaws in their ad system.Ads that are disabled from search syndication due to low relevancy and bid pricestill appear in the Google contextual ad program, unless their quality score is toolow to appear there as well.The whole point of quality-based minimum bids is to squeeze the margins out ofnoisy ad campaigns.Broad Match, Phrase Match, and Exact MatchGoogle AdWords and Yahoo! both have different levels of word matching. An adtargeted to [search term] (with the brackets) will only show up on the search resultspage for the query search term. This is called “exact match.” Yahoo!’s exact match isa bit fuzzy, matching plurals and some common misspellings. Google’s exactmatch is more precise, only matching the exact search query.An ad targeted to “search term” (with the quotation marks) will show up on thesearch results page for a query that has search term anywhere in it, in the same order.This is called “phrase match.”An ad targeted to search term (no quotations or brackets), will show up on the searchresults page for any search query that has the words search and term in it. Withbroad matching, synonyms to search term may also display your ad. If you decide tostart off with broad matching, you should view the synonyms to ensure none ofthem are wasteful. This is especially true with acronyms or other terms withmultiple, well-known meanings.
295Google offers all three levels of ad control. Yahoo! offers exact match and Yahoo!groups phrase match and broad match in a category called advanced match.Examples Match Type Will Show Results For Will Not Show Results For[eat cheese] Exact eat cheese any other search“eat cheese” Phrase eat cheese;I love to eat cheese;you eat cheeseCheese eat, or anythingelse that does not haveboth words together inthe same order as thesearch termeat cheese Broad All above options andsearches such ascheese eating;ate cheddarGoogle Ad StatusIf you do not understand something, or are frustrated with something in particular,feel free to ask at an SEO forum or ask your ad representative. Google AdWordshas a blog (which does not want direct AdWords feedback), an online supportcenter, and you can contact Google advertising via phone at 1-(866)-2-Google.Due to trademark issues, some ad copy will be rejected by the automated review.When that happens, you can request an exception and the ad will get a humanreview.Google usually runs most ads before they have an editorial review, but they reviewthem before placing them on partner sites. I have seen long review times in excessof a few days for Google site-targeted AdSense ads.Ads on Google.com have two states: active or inactive. If an ad is inactive, you canmake it active by bidding higher. Google also has an ad diagnostic tool that stateswhat needs to be done to make each word active.Google Keyword Suggestion ToolThe Google Keyword Tool estimates search volume, trends, and advertisingcompetition. You can enter keywords to analyze or it can extract relevantkeywords from a given web page.The Google Traffic Estimator Tool roughly estimates the price required to rank #1on AdWords 85% of the time, and it estimates the traffic you could expect to getfrom Google AdWords for a given bid.Google offers a search term suggestion tool by the name of Google Suggest thatauto-completes partial search queries. It does not show search volumes, but searchvolume plays a heavy role in its output order. The tool is currently only available insome languages; many Google Toolbars have this feature enabled.
296Negative KeywordsThere is a negative keyword option in both Yahoo! and Google AdWords. Anyword that you do not want your ad to appear for can simply be blocked by placing“-badword” beneath your keywords.There are many words that would indicate a lack of desire to purchase anything.Words like crack, free, wallpapers, pic, and mp3 are often money losers if you do notremember to include these in your negative keyword list.The following is an example keyword list showing a negative keyword; it should bemuch longer and more detailed, this is just an example:eat cheesebuy cheese-freeThus, your ad would show up for many cheese queries, but for none that includedthe word free. Google also allows you to filter